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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK
US pilots blamed in Brazil crash
Wreckage of the Gol Airlines Boeing 737 (File: 3 October 2006)
The Boeing 737 crashed in the Amazon with no survivors
Brazilian investigators have blamed the two US pilots of a private jet for a mid-air collision with a Brazilian airliner, according to media reports.

All 154 people on board died when the Gol airliner plunged into the Amazon in the country's worst aviation disaster.

Federal police said the pilots had not noticed the failure of the plane's transponder, Brazil's O Globo reported.

The device sends out a signal alerting other planes and air traffic control to the presence of the aircraft.

Facing trial

Joseph Lepore, 42, and Jan Paladino, 34, face trial over the September 2006 crash during which their plane clipped the Gol Airlines Boeing 737.

The private jet was damaged but landed safely.

Both US pilots deny responsibility for the crash but have said they will return to Brazil to face charges.

The country's O Globo newspaper said that a spokeswoman for the federal police investigator had confirmed the criminal investigation had been finished and sent to the ministry of justice.

She did not, however, confirm the contents of the report.

The US pilots' lawyer said that Brazilian authorities still had to examine all the evidence before them.

"From the press reports, it would appear that the police have prematurely accused the pilots in response to public pressure and have not conducted a complete and thorough investigation of the facts," Joel R Weiss wrote in an email quoted by the AP news agency.

An initial probe by Brazilian investigators found that the two planes were flying towards each other at the same altitude of 37,000 feet (11,000m).

This suggested that the private jet had strayed from its original flight plan, but, in statements to police, the pilots said they had been authorised to fly at that height.

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