FBI Offers Reward for Mechanic in 1996 Plane Crash

Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes may have improperly handled oxygen generators in ValueJet crash
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2018 4:05 PM CDT
FBI images of Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes.   (FBI)

(Newser) – It's not the usual occupation involved with an FBI reward: airline mechanic. But the agency's Miami office is offering $10,000 to anyone who can help it track down Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes, who is wanted in connection with the 1996 crash of a ValueJet plane that killed all 110 people on board, reports the Miami Herald. Valenzuela-Reyes isn't accused of deliberately bringing down the plane. Rather, investigators think he mishandled oxygen generators in the plane's cargo hold—specifically, they didn't have safety caps—which caused a fire to break out. The pilot reported the blaze soon after takeoff and crashed in the Everglades before being able to return to the airport.

Valenzuela-Reyes was criminally charged in 1999, but "he fled before trial," says Miami special agent Jacqueline Fruge, who has led the investigation since the plane went down, per an FBI release. "We want closure." One theory is that Valenzuela-Reyes is living under a false identity in Santiago, Chile, where he has family. The new FBI poster was being circulated in that country as well as in the US. Valenzuela-Reyes also has connections to Atlanta through his ex-wife and children.

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