Pilots in 16-death crash jailed for praying instead of flying

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The pilot and co-pilot of Tuninter Flight 1153, which crashed into the Mediterranean Sea in 2005, killing sixteen people, have each received ten-year jail sentences for the ditching of the flight. They were found to have prayed instead of trying to direct the plane to safety when the engines failed. Tuninter Flight 1153, from Bari, Italy, to Djerba, Tunisia, crashed into Italian waters on August 6, 2005.

A Tuninter ATR 72 similar to the one that crashed.
Image: Roberto Benetti.

The flight ran into trouble because the ATR 72 twin-engined turboprop had mistakenly been fitted with the fuel gauge for an ATR 42, which has a lower fuel capacity. The incorrect reading on the gauge was relied upon, and led to the aircraft suffering fuel starvation and eventually running out of fuel. The right engine failed at 23,000 feet, and the left at 7,000 feet.

Captain Shafik Al Gharbi and co-pilot Ali Kebaier Lassoued were described as having panicked and started praying aloud, rather than following emergency procedures to bring the plane safely to a runway. After gliding for sixteen minutes, the pilots decided to attempt a crash-landing in the Mediterranean, and the aircraft crashed into the sea about 23 nautical miles to the Northwest of Palermo.

The court in Palermo also sentenced five other employees of Tuninter to sentences of between eight and nine years' imprisonment. None of the accused were in court to hear the verdict, and none will serve time in jail before the appeals process is completed.


Sources

Wikipedia
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