The two pilots of a South American plane that collided with a firetruck killing two firefighters as it was speeding along the runway for takeoff on Friday, were arrested and held in a custody for more than 24 hours following the accident in a highly unusual move that a leading pilots union has described as “extremely detrimental” to flight safety.
The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, which represents 100,000 pilots in nearly 100 countries, said the pilots of LATAM flight LA2213 were arrested shortly after the accident that also seriously injured a third person and caused substantial damage to the Airbus A320neo aircraft.
Pilots and other aviation staff caught up in any type of serious incident are generally considered witnesses, and arresting anyone connected to an accident, especially at such an early stage in the investigation, is almost unheard of.
“Holding individuals in custody who are already under intense psychological pressure due to an accident is extremely detrimental to flight safety and can only hinder the investigation,” a spokesperson for IFALPA slammed on Sunday.
“In any similar circumstances, the flight crew should be provided immediate medical care and evaluation. In no circumstances is it appropriate to question them in the immediate aftermath of any accident or incident until they have been professionally evaluated by qualified medical personnel who can determine their mental and physical fitness to contribute accurate information to investigators.”
Describing the arrests as showing “complete disregard” to internationally agreed accident investigation standards, the pilot’s group said it “may also lead the public to conclude that the accident resulted from the flight crew’s intentional acts, rather than technical issues or a string of errors originating from multiple factors.”
LATAM flight LA2213 bound for Juliaca, was performing its takeoff roll at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport when a firetruck entered the runway and collided with the aircraft’s right-hand engine.
The engine erupted into flames, and the aircraft was badly damaged, but everyone on board was made to evacuate. Two firefighters in the truck, Ángel Torres and Nicolás Santa Gadea, were killed in the accident.
The cause of the accident has not been determined, and both LATAM and IFALPA have urged the public not to jump to conclusions about the cause of the accident or who, if anyone, was to blame.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.