SAO PAULO // Police in Brazil charged 10 people yesterday, including former government officials, for contributing to the country's worst airline accident, which killed 199 people last year. All 187 people on board and 12 people on the ground died when the TAM Linhas Aereas Airbus A320 overshot a recently repaved runway at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport in July of 2007. Those criminally charged include the former head of the national aviation authority (ANAC), Milton Zuanazzi, as well as officials at TAM and at the airport authority Infraero. They are all accused of violating national aviation security and could face prison terms of up to 6 years.
"The report points to people who actively or passively are responsible for this damage," said detective Antonio Carlos Menezes Barbosa, who chaired the police investigation. The aircraft had sped off a rain-soaked runway across a busy road and burst into a ball of fire when it crashed into a warehouse. Official audits said the botched landing was partly due to an incorrect positioning of the plane's thruster controls, which they blamed on pilot error and lack of training by TAM.
But the police said yesterday that government and airline officials had contributed to the cause of the accident by failing to observe a series of security procedures. The runway had not yet been properly grooved and should not have been used during rain, police said. "That aircraft should have been diverted to another airport," Mr Barbosa said. The police report also blamed Airbus for not making obligatory an alarm warning about incorrect positioning of the aircraft's thruster controls.
Police were still working to identify responsible officials at Airbus, as Brazilian legislation does not allow for criminal charges against companies, Mr Barbosa said. TAM said it would not comment on the charges. A lawyer for one of the charged former ANAC directors said the police accusations lacked evidence. Airbus was not immediately available to comment. * Reuters