It has been over two decades since ValuJet Flight 592 crashed into the Everglades after it took off from Miami. Recently, the FBI offered a reward to find a fugitive who possibly had a role in the crash.
On Thursday (April 5), the FBI announced a reward of $10,000 to anybody who has any information that may help them capture Mauro Ociel Valenzuela-Reyes.
Valenzuela-Reyes worked as a mechanic for SabreTech, the maintenance contractor for ValuJet. Reportedly, he vanished in 1999 while facing federal charges after investigators concluded that he might have had a hand in the crash.
On May 11, 1996, the ValuJet crash killed all 110 passengers and crew members. Investigators revealed that the mishandling of oxygen generators in the flight’s cargo was the reason behind the fire that caused the crash.
The oxygen generators were without safety caps, which resulted in a chemical fire just moments after the plane took off from Miami International Airport. A lot of efforts were taken to turn the plane around, but the DC-9 plunged into the Everglades.
Initially, the investigation was challenging in two aspects: Determining the cause of the crash, and identifying the victims’ remains.
For some cases, FBI Miami Special Agent, Jacqueline Fruge asked the victims’ families to provide items that may contain fingerprints so they could be matched with things found at the scene. In one instance, a baby album proved useful to identify a young mom. Fingerprints in a playbook helped identify a football player.
Fruge said, “We want closure. We’ve tried over the years to find him. It bothers me. I’ve lived and breathed it for many, many years.”
Valenzuela-Reyes’ wanted poster states his birth date as April 18, 1969. He was born in La Calera, Chile, has black hair, brown eyes, stands between 5’10” and 6’0”, and weighs 170 pounds.
The poster also states that currently, Valenzuela-Reyes may be living in Chile and may travel to Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, or other South American countries.
There is also an age-progression of how he may look now, as the photo originally circulated is from 1996. The FBI revealed that Valenzuela-Reyes has connections in Atlanta, where his ex-wife and kids reportedly live.
He also has family in Santiago, Chile, who authorities believe could be living under a false identity.
In 1999, he was charged with conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation, and for causing the transportation of dangerous material. If caught, he will also be charged with fleeing and failing to appear for trial.
Two other SabreTech employees were also charged in the criminal case, but were later acquitted. Valenzuela-Reyes is the last employee who is wanted in the case. Fruge claims that the new poster and reward circulating in the U.S. as well as Chile may help capture the fugitive, and will bring justice to the victims’ families.
Contact the FBI with Tips about Valenzuela-Reyes
Anybody with information about Valenzuela-Reyes has been asked to get in touch with their local FBI office, or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. People also have the option to send an anonymous tip online.