"I hope the controller does not become a scapegoat', says Flight 1907 widow
For Rosane Gutjahr, Legacy pilots are the biggest culprits.
Military Court sentenced flight controller to 14 months imprisonment.
Glauco Araújo G1, in São Paulo
"I hope the flight controller does not become a scapegoat for the Flight 1907 accident case. The real culprits for what happened are the pilots Jan Paul Paladino and Joseph Lepore." That's how Rosane Gutjahr spoke of the sentencing of Sergeant Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos to one year and two months in prison for manslaughter (unintentional killing). The decision is by the Military Courts and was announced on Tuesday, Oct. 26. It will be appealed to the Superior Military Tribunal (STM).
Rosane is the widow of Rolf Gutjahr, a passenger who died in the accident on September 29, 2006, in northern Mato Grosso. None of the 154 passengers and crew aboard the Gol aircraft survived. Santos is a flight controller and worked in air traffic control on the day of the accident.
Four other controllers - Joao Batista da Silva, Felipe Santos Reis, Lucivando Tiburcio de Alencar and Leandro José Santos de Barros - were acquitted. They had been indicted the Military Prosecutors' Office (MPM) for negligence and for failing to comply with military safety rules. Only Jomarcelo was indicted for manslaughter.
Sergeant Santos was charged with failing to report the Legacy's collision avoidance signal going off, and for not informing the officer who relieved him of the change in the jet's altitude. The transponder is a collision avoidance system that "tells" the pilots about the proximity of other aircraft to avoid collision in midair.
[Photo: Jan and Joe on Good Morning America. Photo Caption: Pilots Jan Paul Paladino and Joseph Lepore were on the the Legacy jet that collided with the Gol Boeing
Photo Credit: Reproduction / TV Globo]
"As much as the flight controllers were in the wrong at the time of the accident, the real culprits for the accident are the pilots of the Legacy [Lepore and Paladino]. They had the T-cas off, they broke the rules of the Brazilian aviation, turned off the transponder use and didn't know how to use the aircraft they were piloting," said Rosane.
She hopes that judgment of the case does not stop. "I don't want to defend the controllers, but they tried to warn the plane [Legacy] about what could happen, but could not because the jet pilots [Lepore and Paladino] were on the wrong radio frequency," said the widow.
"The pilots need to be punished, because they [Americans] think that Brazil only has samba, carnival and prostitutes. It is enough what [Sylvester] Stallone said about us. We need to punish them to help our image abroad," said Rosa.
The sergeant's lawyer, Roberto Sobral, said he would appeal to the full STM and the Supreme Court (STF), if necessary. For Sobral, Santos was unequipped to control because he could not speak English, considering that two Americans piloted the Legacy. He accused the military court of preventing the defense from producing evidence to exonerate the controllers.
"The sentence is unacceptable. He was not allowed to prove that he does not speak English and was forced to sit at a console to coordinate the flight of foreign pilots. It was a failure of Air Force personnel. Not only that, but there are a series of shortcomings that the Air Force must recognize, "said Sobral. The lawyer says the sergeant will be allowed to appeal the sentence in liberty.
The Supreme Court (STF) denied on 22 September this year a motion by the air traffic controllers accused of being responsible for the accident. The injunction sent to the STF by Febracta on August 30, demanded the dismissal of the military criminal case brought against four sergeants of the Air Force.
The flight controllers argued that the process already account for manslaughter (unintentional killing) the Federal Court.
In the STF, the author of the opinion in the case, Minister Joaquim Barbosa, understood that no conflict of jurisdiction between the two criminal cases. In federal court, the four controllers were charged for an attack on the safety of maritime, river or air navigation, under Article 261 of the Penal Code.