FBI Offers Reward for Capture of Fugitive Mechanic in ValuJet Crash

The FBI is still seeking Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes, a mechanic who worked for ValuJet Airlines' maintenance contractor, SabreTech. He was facing criminal charges in 1999 following the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in 1996. Crash investigators determined he had a role in the mishandling and packaging of oxygen generators that were placed in the DC-9's cargo hold.

The FBI's Miami Field Office is offering a $10,000 award for information leading to the capture of Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes, a mechanic who worked for ValuJet Airlines' maintenance contractor, SabreTech. He was facing criminal charges in 1999 following the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 on May 11, 1996, shortly after takeoff from Miami International Airport en route to Atlanta. The plane crashed into shallow, marshy waters of the Everglades, killing both pilots, the three flight attendants, and all 105 passengers on board.

Crash investigators determined he had a role in the mishandling and packaging of oxygen generators that were placed in the DC-9's cargo hold. The generators were missing their required safety caps, and they ignited in the cargo area.

Valenzuela-Reyes fled before trial, and FBI Miami has been searching for him since then. "We want closure," said FBI Miami Special Agent Jacqueline Fruge, who has been the primary agent on the case since it began and has worked with the victims' families.

According to the FBI, Valenzuela-Reyes has connections to Atlanta, where his ex-wife and children have lived, and Santiago, Chile, where he has family and may be living today under a false identity. "We've tried over the years to find him," said Fruge. "It bothers me. I've lived and breathed it for many, many years."

Two other SabreTech employees who were charged in the criminal case were acquitted, according to the FBI news release, which says if he is captured, Valenzuela-Reyes would face charges related to the crash and additional federal charges, issued in 2000, for fleeing and failing to appear at his trial. The new reward and a wanted poster are being circulated in Chile as well as the United States.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable causes of the accident, which resulted from a fire in the plane'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 unexpected 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 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.

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  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - January 2019

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