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September 4, 2001-Deadly Lie - Singer's plane booked for five, not eight: Jet Owner

September 4, 2001-Deadly Lie - Singer's plane booked for five, not eight: Jet Owner

The owner of the doomed plane that crashed in flames, killing young R&B sensation Aaliyah, claims the singer's entourage lied about how many people would board the small craft, The Post has learned. Aaliyah, seven members of her video crew and the pilot died when the plane went down just moments after takeoff Aug. 25. The owner, Gilbert Chacon, president of Blackhawk International Airways, has refused to speak with the media, but recently discussed with acquaintances his stunning version of events leading up to the crash in the Bahamas. Chacon told Lantana Airport manager Owen Gassaway that he was asked to pick up five people - not eight. "With five passengers, everything would have been fine," Gassaway told The Post, adding that a Cessna 402B like the one that crashed could easily fly six people and their luggage. It's been widely reported the plane was grossly overloaded. Gassaway told The Post that he spoke to Chacon, and "naturally, I asked him about the crash." "He's real upset about it and did not have too much to say. But he did say his company was scheduled to pick up five passengers." No one at Atlantic Flight Group, the Miami company that organized the Aaliyah entourage travel plans, answered the phone yesterday.

Gassaway said several people have told him that pilot Luis Morales was placed under a lot of pressure at the Marsh Harbour airport, where Aaliyah's entourage boarded the small plane. "Witnesses say Aaliyah was in a hurry to get back to New York," Gassaway said. "She and the others were shouting at Morales to load up and get going so they could make connections in Miami to fly on to New York and California." Gassaway conceded Morales "should have stood his ground" and refused to take the extra passengers. He said Blackhawk, run by Gilbert and his son Erik Chacon, kept its planes in "immaculate condition." "There's no way Gil would have let someone fly that plane who wasn't qualified," he said. "It was in superb condition, with two new engines and a paint job."

Federal Aviation Administration officials have said Morales was not authorized to fly the airplane under Blackhawk's charter license.

Meanwhile, family members of some victims have hired lawyers - including Miami's Aaron Podhurst, lead attorney in the 1988 Pan Am crash over Lockerbie, Scotland. "This was definitely a wrongful death," said Becky Gallin, the ex-wife of Aaliyah's bodyguard, Scott Gallin, and mother of his three children.

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