On the Monday night before Thanksgiving, a Metroliner III cargo jet shuttling between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico struck a mountainside about 25 miles from its destination. The two pilots at the controls both died in the crash.
Now, the family of copilot Steve Gullberg are charging that the Fort Lauderdale-based airline that employed the 28-year-old didn't keep up its maintenance standards and that the results may have been deadly.
Originally from the suburbs of St. Louis, Gullberg had worked for Fort Lauderdale-based IBC Air for only three months. But according to his family, he was already worried. "He was expressing concerns with my dad about maintenance issues," Steve's brother Greg tells New Times. "When they would mention these maintenance issues to management, they were just shrugged off."
Greg continues: "This was an accident waiting to happen, and it was going to happen sooner or later. Unfortunately, it happened sooner, sooner than we would have hoped."
The Gullberg brothers have been around aviation all their lives, Greg says. Their father, Steve Sr., is a retired American Airlines pilot and licensed instructor. "My brother and I both have been flying since we were teenagers," he says. "My brother just followed in my father's footsteps."
A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Steve Gullberg worked for a number of smaller airlines before taking a job with IBC. He had been living out in San Juan at the time of the crash. He saw the position as the opportunity to jump to larger carriers.
But the pilot had misgivings about the conditions at the company, his brother says. Gullberg wasn't alone.
"The planes are very old, and some of the upkeep of the airplanes was a concern to me," one former IBC Air employee tells New Times, requesting anonymity. Although the company was involved in no other crashes, the pilot says the issues were well-known among the company's flight crews.
A call to IBC Air was not returned. But the company told St. Louis' KSDK that there is "no reason to assume mechanical error caused the crash and the company is awaiting the results" of the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the crash.
The family is also eagerly awaiting the expert's final word on what caused the crash.
Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.