Friday, April 06, 2018

Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes: New Reward for Fugitive in ValuJet crash

The FBI recently released age-progressed images of Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes, a fugitive in the 1996 crash of a ValuJet Flight 592 near Miami. 

When Valujet Flight 592 ascended for the last time in 1996, it was supposed to be for a routine, hour-and-a-half-long trip from Miami International Airport to Atlanta.

Seven minutes after takeoff, however, flight captain Candalyn Kubeck radioed a troubling message: There had been a strange sound heard on the plane, and now the pilots were experiencing electrical problems.

“We’re losing everything,” Kubeck said, seconds later. “We need, we need to go back to Miami.”

In the background were shouts of “fire, fire, fire, fire” and “We’re on fire! We’re on fire!”

Kubeck and her co-pilot managed to turn the aircraft back toward Miami, but it was too late. In the cargo hold a devastating blaze had erupted, filling the cabin and cockpit of the DC-9 with thick smoke and flames that were hot enough to melt aluminum. The plane careened downward, tilted to the right, on a final, uncontrolled descent.

At 2:13 p.m. on May 11, 1996 — less than 10 minutes after takeoff — Valujet Flight 592 slammed into the murky waters of the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 people on board. The impact was at once devastating and curious: A witness in a sightseeing plane would later tell investigators that the jet seemed to vanish once it struck the wetlands, creating a deep crater in the muck and saw grass.

Crash debris haunted investigators for months as they recovered fragments of both plane and passengers from the “River of Grass.” To this day, no complete body of any of the passengers has ever been found.

“It just went to pieces,” Jacqueline Fruge, a special agent with the FBI’s Miami office, said in a statement Thursday.

The devastating crash prefaced the financial demise of one of the country’s low-cost carriers.

The National Transportation Safety Board spent more than a year working up an accident report that ruled the crash had been caused primarily by a contractor’s mishandling of the packaging and shipment of oxygen generators in the cargo hold.

The oxygen generators had been loaded without the proper safety caps, causing them to ignite in the cargo hold and trigger the deadly fire, the report said.

Investigators identified three employees of SabreTech, the maintenance contractor for Valujet at the time, who had a role in mishandling the oxygen generators, according to the FBI. Two of those employees were criminally charged but later acquitted.

However, the third SabreTech employee, mechanic Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes, fled sometime before his trial in 2000. He had been charged the year before with making false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as causing the transportation of hazardous materials.

Now, more than two decades after one of the deadliest aviation disasters in Florida history, the FBI is renewing its search for Valenzuela-Reyes, the last employee wanted in connection with the Valujet crash.

The FBI announced Thursday that it was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Valenzuela-Reyes. The agency also released age-progressed images of what the mechanic might look like today at 48 years old.

He is described as a 170-pound Hispanic male with black hair and brown eyes, and stands anywhere from 5-foot-10-inches to six feet tall. FBI investigators believe Valenzuela-Reyes could be living under a false identity in Chile or elsewhere in South America. He also has ties to Georgia, the agency said.

Anyone with information on Valenzuela-Reyes is asked to contact their local FBI office.

An FBI spokesman did not respond to questions sent by email or grant an interview request Friday, referring to the statement the agency had released the day before.

Fruge, who has worked for the FBI for 29 years and has been the primary agent on the Valujet case since it began, said in the statement that locating Valenzuela-Reyes would bring “closure” in one of Florida’s deadliest airline crashes.

“We’ve tried over the years to find him,” Fruge said. “It bothers me. I’ve lived and breathed it for many, many years.”

Original article ➤

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

Location: MIAMI, FL
Accident Number: DCA96MA054
Date & Time: 05/11/1996, 1413 EDT
Registration: N904VJ
Aircraft: Douglas DC-9-32
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event:
Injuries: 110 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 121: Air Carrier - Scheduled


The airplane crashed into the Everglades about 10 minutes after takeoff from Miami International Airport.  Safety issues discussed in the Board's report include minimization of the hazards posed by fires in class D cargo compartments; equipment, training, and procedures for addressing in-flight smoke and fire aboard air carrier airplanes; guidance for handling of chemical oxygen generators and other hazardous aircraft components; SabreTech's and ValuJet's procedures for handling company materials and hazardous materials; ValuJet's oversight of its contract heavy maintenance facilities; FAA's oversight of ValuJet and ValuJet's contract maintenance facilities; FAA's and the Research and Special Programs Administration's (RSPA) hazardous materials program and undeclared hazardous materials in the U.S. mail; and ValuJet's procedures for boarding and accounting for lap children. Safety recommendations concerning these issues were made to the FAA, RSPA, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Air Transport Association.  (See NTSB Report AAR-97/06)

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
which resulted from a fire in the airplane's class D cargo compartment that was initiated by the actuation of one or more oxygen generators being improperly carried as cargo, were (1) the failure of SabreTech to properly prepare, package, and identify unexpended chemical oxygen generators before presenting them to ValuJet for carriage; (2) the failure of ValuJet to properly oversee its contract maintenance program to ensure compliance with maintenance, maintenance training, and hazardous materials requirements and practices; and (3) the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require smoke detection and fire suppression systems in class D cargo compartments. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the FAA to adequately monitor ValuJet's heavy maintenance programs and responsibilities, including ValuJet's oversight of its contractors, and SabreTech's repair station certificate; the failure of the FAA to adequately respond to prior chemical oxygen generator fires with programs to address the potential hazards; and ValuJet's failure to ensure that both ValuJet and contract maintenance facility employees were aware of the carrier's 'no-carry' hazardous materials policy and had received appropriate hazardous materials training. (NTSB Report AAR-97/06)


Occurrence #1: FIRE
Phase of Operation: CLIMB



Phase of Operation: DESCENT

Phase of Operation: DESCENT - UNCONTROLLED

Factual Information

Please refer to the National Transportation Safety Board Aircraft Accident Report, NTSB/AAR-97/06, DCA96MA054, for information about this accident.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Flight Instructor
Age: 35, Female
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Seatbelt, Shoulder harness
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Valid Medical--no waivers/lim.
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/12/1996
Occupational Pilot:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  8928 hours (Total, all aircraft), 2116 hours (Total, this make and model), 188 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft) 

Co-Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Flight Engineer
Age: 52, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 03/07/1996
Occupational Pilot:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: Douglas
Registration: N904VJ
Model/Series: DC-9-32 DC-9-32
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Transport
Serial Number: 47377
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 115
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Continuous Airworthiness
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 108000 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 2 Turbo Fan
Airframe Total Time: 2864 Hours
Engine Manufacturer: P&W
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: JT8D-9A
Rated Power:
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Flag carrier (121)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: VJ6A 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: MIA, 8 ft msl
Observation Time: 1350 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 18 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 100°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 4000 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 29°C / 16°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  12 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots, 100°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting:
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: MIAMI, FL (MIA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: ATLANTA, GA (ATL)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time: 1403 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class B

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation:
Runway Surface Condition:
Runway Used: 0
IFR Approach:
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 5 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 105 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: In-Flight
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 110 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:

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