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Bolivian who pointed out Chapecoense charter flaws seeks asylum in Brazil

A Bolivian aviation agent who pointed out irregularities in the flight plan of a plane that crashed and killed 71 people has traveled to Brazil to seek asylum.

Brazil's federal prosecutors' office said in a statement on Tuesday that the woman presented herself at the border city of Corumba and requested help.

According to the prosecutors' office, the woman worked at the Bolivian aviation agency that approved the ill-fated flight Monday between Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and Medellin, Colombia.

The prosecutors' office did not name her but Spanish news agency EFE has said that sources within the prosecutor's office have identified her as Celia Castedo Monasterio, and said that she was an employee of Bolivia's air traffic controller's administration at Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz.

The official sources said she is seeking asylum because she fears repercussion from the Bolivian government.

"She was given the information about the protocol for seeking legal asylum in the country and now she must wait for the Ministry of Justice to make a decision about her request," Corumba's federal police chief, Sergio Macedo, said. "The process can take up to a year."

Bolivian government minister Carlos Romero told a news conference on Tuesday that Castedo "has not followed the process for immigration and has left the country illegally. What she has done is serious because she is evading the judicial process."

Initial investigations have found the jet's maximum flying range was exceeded. 

In the aftermath, several high-ranking aviation officials were suspended in Bolivia. On Monday, the Bolivian government formally filed a lawsuit against LaMia airline, the charter that flew the plane.

The head of LaMia airline was arrested by Bolivian authorities on Tuesday after being detained for questioning.

Gustavo Vargas, a retired Bolivian air force general, was picked up in Santa Cruz, Bolivia along with a mechanic and secretary who worked for him at LaMia airline.

All are being questioned about their roles in letting a British-built short-range jet attempt a more than four-hour flight from Santa Cruz to Medellin, Colombia, for which it barely had enough fuel, in violation of aviation norms.

Prosecutors said the interrogation was expected to last eight hours and afterward they would decide whether any of the three would be formally arrested.

Earlier, authorities raided the airline's offices as well as those of the agency that oversees air traffic in Bolivia.

Authorities are also looking into whether LaMia, which received permission to fly only earlier this year, was favoured by Vargas' son, who headed the office responsible for licensing aircraft in Bolivia's civil aviation agency.

Government officials in La Paz also told EFE on Tuesday that the charter plane's pilot, Miguel Quiroga, was pending a court date under charges that he had abandoned the Bolivian Air Force, the country's Minister of Defense, Reymi Ferreira.

In total, 71 people died, including 19 members of the Chapecoense football club.

The team was headed to the Copa Sudamericana final in Colombia.

Information from The Associated Press and EFE news agency was used in this report.

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