Hours before he died in a plane crash during a storm in Croatia, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown called a friend and said he was insisting on going ahead with the flight despite the bad weather, The New York Times reported Saturday.
His friend and former business partner, Nolanda B. Hill, said she asked him in a phone call to wait until the weather cleared up. "He said, `You sound just like my staff," Hill told the Times.Hill said she believes Brown pressured the pilots to go ahead with the flight.
"He would never let anything get in his way. He would never let the weather stop him," Hill said. "I know he made that decision."
She said she wanted to speak out because the Air Force had relieved a general and two other officials of their duties for failing to carry out airplane inspections that might have prevented the crash.
"I'm furious about that. These men are being made scapegoats. If Mr. Brown were alive . . . I know he would want to stand up and say, `I made the call,"' Hill told the Times.
However, the Air Force has released no evidence to suggest the pilots were worried about the weather, and other pilots in the same squadron say they would never have succumbed to pressure to fly if it was dangerous.
She said he wouldn't have ordered the pilots to do it but would have "explained the seriousness of the situation, and to implore them that if there was any way to get out, that they should get out."