More than 20 years after ValuJet Flight 592 plunged into the Florida Everglades, killing 110 people, the FBI is hoping a reward will help lead to the capture of a fugitive airline mechanic facing federal charges in the crash.
The FBI on Thursday announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes, who worked for the airline’s maintenance contractor, SabreTech.
An investigation into the crash resulted in the indictment of SabreTech along with three employees. Investigators determined that improperly packaged chemical oxygen generators loaded onto the flight had been signed off on by company employees, despite lacking safety caps.
Two were taken into custody while Valenzuela-Reyes remains a fugitive from justice.
"He fled before trial," said FBI Miami Special Agent Jacqueline Fruge, who has been the primary agent on the case. "We want closure."
Flight 592 had taken off from Miami International Airport on May 11, 1996, when the pilot reported a fire in the cargo area about 10 minutes into the flight. The plane was returning to the airport when it pitched nose-down into the shallow, marshy waters of the Everglades, killing everyone on board.
Valenzuela-Reyes has connections to Atlanta, Georgia, where his ex-wife and kids have resided, and Santiago, Chile, where he has family and may be residing today under a false identity, FBI officials said.
"We’ve tried over the years to find him," said Fruge. "It bothers me. I’ve lived and breathed it for many, many years."