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  HOME | Bolivia

Lamia Chief Appears in Court after Being Charged with Manslaughter

LA PAZ – The general director of Bolivia’s Lamia Airlines, Gustavo Vargas Gamboa, is appearing Thursday before a judge after the Attorney General’s Office accused him of assorted crimes, including “involuntary manslaughter,” related to the crash in Colombia last week of a chartered airplane owned by the firm.

The hearing is being held in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where the airline is headquartered.

Vargas until Wednesday afternoon had been in police custody in a Santa Cruz hospital, where he had been admitted for a health evaluation after being arrested on Tuesday.

One of the prosecutors investigating the plane crash, Ivan Quintanilla, told media outlets that Vargas was charged with “involuntary manslaughter, causing serious ... injury and (having responsibility for) an air disaster.”

Also under investigation are Vargas’s colleague, former military pilot Marco Antonio Rocha, and an official with the Bolivian flight control entity, Celia Castedo, who questioned the plane’s flight plan prior to the accident but evidently took no action at the time.

The firm’s plane, which had been chartered by Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer club to ferry the team and dozens of staff members to Medellin, crashed on Nov. 28 a few kilometers from that city’s airport.

The crash killed 71 of the 77 people on board the aircraft, the only survivors being three players, a journalist and two members of the crew.

Bolivian, Brazilian and Colombian prosecutors met on Wednesday in Santa Cruz to share information and discuss the next steps in the investigation, along with forming a tripartite commission to work jointly on the case.

The Public Ministry also confiscated two Lamia aircraft that have been kept since 2014 in a military hangar in central Bolivia.

The AG’s Office is also looking into Lamia’s operating authorization and searched the offices of the DGAC civil aeronautics directorate, Attorney General Ramiro Guerrero said.

Also arrested on Thursday morning was the former director of DGAC’s National Aeronautics Registry, Gustavo Vargas Villegas, the son of the Lamia chief.

Vargas Villegas is being investigated for the crimes of “improper use of influence, negotiations incompatible with the exercise of public duties and noncompliance with duties,” Guerrero said.

 

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