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Pilots of LATAM Plane That Collided With Fire Truck Were Arrested And Held in Jail

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In a highly unusual move that a leading pilots union has criticized as “extremely detrimental” to flight safety, 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 custody for more than 24 hours following the accident.

The pilots of LATAM flight LA2213 were detained soon after the crash, which also seriously injured a third person and significantly damaged the Airbus A320neo aircraft, according to the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, which represents 100,000 pilots in close to 100 nations.

It is very unheard of to arrest anyone involved in an accident, especially so early in the investigation. Pilots and other aviation personnel involved in any form of the serious mishap are typically regarded as witnesses.

“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.”

The right-hand engine of LATAM flight LA2213, which was headed for Juliaca, was struck by a firetruck as it entered the runway at Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima.

The airplane was severely damaged and the engine burst into flames, but everyone on board was forced to evacuate. Nicolás Santa Gadea and ngel Torres, two of the truck’s firefighters, were killed in the accident.

Since the accident’s cause is still unknown, LATAM and IFALPA have both advised the public to refrain from making any judgment calls about who, if anyone, was responsible.

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