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Columnist Baffled By Crash Victims' Suit

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New York Times business travel columnist Joe Sharkey says he was unaware of a lawsuit launched against him by the relatives of victims of a Brazilian plane crash until he read about it in an American online publication. The suit was launched by Rosane Gutjhar, the widow of Rolf Gutjhar, who was among 154 people who died when the GOL Boeing 737 they were on collided with an Embraer Legacy 600. The Association of Relatives and Friends of GOL's Flight 1907 Victims issued a news release that Sharkey was on the Legacy, which made a safe emergency landing at a Brazilian military base, minus a winglet and part of its tail. Sharkey wrote extensively about the accident, defending the business jet's pilots and blaming Brazilian controllers for the tragedy. In the suit, Gutjhar is seeking compensation for "moral damages" she claims were caused by Sharkey's accounts of the developing story. Sharkey told AVweb he can't comment directly on the suit since he hasn't seen a copy but he defended his reporting and commentary about the accident. "Obviously, anyone who followed my reporting knows that I have consistently expressed the deepest sympathy for the relatives of those who were killed," he said.

But Gutjhar claims that Sharkey's "personal attacks" against Brazil's president, air traffic controllers and, allegedly, Brazilians in general, somehow resulted in discrimination against her in the ongoing criminal proceedings against the Legacy pilots, Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore, who were ferrying the aircraft to New York from the Embraer factory. "Nothing can justify the words he used against all Brazilians. All I want from him is to take it all back," Gutjhar said in the news release. Her lawyer, Oscar Fleischfresser, was a little more pragmatic, however. "Only amends will restore the widow's dignity," he said. No figure was specified for those "amends."

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