RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- A congressional commission investigating Brazil's troubled air traffic control system said Thursday it will ask two American pilots involved in the South American country's deadliest air disaster to testify.
Lawmakers want to question Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, both of New York, who were flying an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet when it collided with Gol airlines Boeing 737 over the Amazon rain forest on Sept. 29.
The Gol jet crashed, killing all 154 people aboard, while the Legacy jet, owned by Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based ExcelAire, landed safely.
The disaster was a factor cited by air traffic controllers as they began months of protests, complaining of precarious work conditions, that caused slowdowns at airports nationwide.
"Because the whole problem with the air traffic controllers started with the accident we want to hear from the pilots," the commission's president, Rep. Marcelo Castro, said by phone from Brasilia.
Castro said the commission was consulting with the Foreign Ministry to determine whether the pilots could be compelled to testify in Brazil or if investigators would have to travel to the United States. He said the pilots might be able to testify in written depositions.
Castro added the commission also plans to ask the presidents of Gol airlines and ExcelAire to testify.
ExcelAire did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Lepore, 42, and Paladino, 34, were detained in Brazil for two months after the crash before they were allowed to leave, promising they would return for any court action.
Brazilian authorities have said the pilots' "lack of caution" played a role in the crash and prosecutors are considering whether to bring charges against them. The pilots and ExcelAire have repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying that controllers had put them onto a collision course with the larger plane.
On Thursday, military prosecutor Giovanni Rattacaso said that controllers could be charged because "the controllers had to take measures" to avoid the accident.
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