Gol Accidente: search for justice is nearly three years old
Families of the 154 victims press to achieve judgement of the Americans who were on the Legacy jet before the statute of limitations runs out
Getting over the grief, reorganizing life without the deceased family member, reading the accident report, among other mishaps, are stages overcome by relatives of the 154 victims of the disaster with the Gol plane. However, the aviation tragedy that is reaching íts third anniversary next Tuesday, seems far from coming to a conclusion in the courts. The fear, now, is that the slowness of the courts will bring with it the expiration of punibility for the crimes for which the pilots of the Legacy - the aircraft which collided with the Brazilian airline's Boeing - are responding in Brazil. “The principal accusation, of an attack on the safety of air traffic, expires in eight years, considering the proportions of the crime. But the defense is stretching it out by calling witnesses from the United States and Switzerland", complained Dante d’Aquino, assistant to the prosecution hired by the families of the victims. Lawyer Theo Dias, who is defending Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, rebuts the argument. “They are North American citizens, it would be inevitable that the witnesses, not only people who were on the flight but workers who can testify as to their competence, would be foreigners”, he emphasizes.
Dias says he believe in a rapid end to the case, before the charges go stale. “It's clear that this is a very delicate question which involves technical knowledge, but I affirm with conviction that this case will be over in less than eight years.”
Besides the Legacy pilots, responding for crimes related to the accident in the Federal Court of Sinop (MT), there area where the airplane crashed, are air traffic controllers Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos and Lucivando Tibúrcio de Alencar.
Besides the two, in the Military Courts, also being tried are Felipe Santos dos Reis and Leandro José Santos de Barros, also air traffic controllers. Although they are answering as defendants in the cases, the Air Force professionals are not targets of the victims' families.
Gol was consulted about the number of settlements already reached, as well as the terms of the negotiations, but did not supply the information to reporters. Mellina Galvanin, who represents the families of nine victims, affirmed that the airline has been inflexible on amounts. “For non-material damages the indemnity established is about 350 monthly minimum salaries [about US$90,000]. As to the financial damages, the amount varies according to the age and income of the person at the time of the disaster. Someone who earned R$ 4,000 per month [about US$29,000 per annum] for example, and was 30 years old, the total value is about R$ 460,000 [US$256,000].
This is absurd if we think of how Constantino himself, the owner of Gol, affirmed in a Congressional hearing that the airplane's insurance policy was from 750 million to a billion dollars”, the lawyer criticized.
Close to 30 families turned to the United States courts to ask for indemnification. They are waiting for a decsion by the Amerian Supreme Court related to an appeal against the prior ruling, that established that the court of Brazil were the right forum for the case, and not those of North America. On Tuesday, the day in which the accident marks its third anniversary, there will be a hearing in the [Congressional] Travel and Transport Committee. The objective is to analyze the investigations and the measures taken after the Flight 1907 accident, which set off the country's most serious aviation crisis.
“Some changes to the operational system are underway. What's curious is that when we publicly related the shortcomings, they said that there were none, that it's one of the best systems in the world. Why change it them?" asked Edleuzo Cavalcante, president of the Brazilian Air Traffic Controllers' Association, currently under administrative arrest, for having given an interview to the press. The Correio asked the Air Force for information about the country's air traffic control, but received no answer.
At 17:51 on September 29, 2006
The Legacy jet took off from São José dos Campos with two crew members and five passengers. The destination was Flórida (USA) with a stopover in Manaus.
Took-off from Manaus airport, with six crew memberes and 148 passagers the Boeing of Gol. The destination was Rio de Janeiro with an intermediate stop in Brasilia.
The two aircraft collide head-on, their left wings touching.
The Legacy lost part of the left wing and suffered damage to the stabilizer, but did not lose stability, managing an emergency landing at Brigadeiro Veloso Test Field, located in the Serra do Cachimbo mountains in the state of Pará. The occupants were uninjured.
The Gol plane lost about a third of the left wing and became uncontrollable, going into a dive and breaking apart in midair. There were no survivors.