"They All Died In The Line Of Duty"
The Mexican government helicopter
previously reported missing by Aero-News has been found. It crashed
west of Mexico City, striking a piney mountainside at 11,200 feet
in what appears to have been controlled flight. There was a
All nine aboard the aircraft died, including Public Safety
Secretary Ramon Martin Huerta, Federal Preventive Police
Commissioner Tomas Valencia, other officials, and the two-man
The helicopter was not an Mi-17 as Aero-News speculated, it was
a Bell 412.
The aircraft was taking the VIPs to
La Palma maximum-security prison for a public ceremony swearing in
new prison guards. The ceremony was symbolic of the
administration's intent to crack down on drug-fueled crime, even if
they have to build prisons and hire guards to contain all the
criminals. The ceremony was delayed pending the appointment of new
Mexican authorities have dismissed suggestions of sabotage. Jose
Antonio Bernal, one of the officials aboard the helicopter, had
been threatened by drug gang leader Osiel Cardenas, who is
incarcerated in La Palma.
Most of the other officials including Huerta and Valencia are
closely associated with Mexico's crackdown on narcotics
traffickers, and the Cardenas/drug angle fed much speculation in
the Mexican press.
But Presidential spokesman Ruben
Aguilar told the press late Thursday that all signs pointed to an
accident, although information is only preliminary at this time.
"[W]e must wait for the results of the investigation." In Mexico,
civil air accidents are investigated by the Communications and
Weather is more likely to be implicated. Mario Martinez, flying
a chase helicopter, last saw the VIP copter enter a cloud bank.
President Vicente Fox spoke to the public on television
"They all died in the line of duty." On Thursday, he quickly
appointed replacements for the senior officials: the new Public
Safety Secretary is Rafael Rios, who has had a long career in law
enforcement and intelligence, and Arturo Jimenez is the new the
Federal Police Commander.
For Mexican law enforcement authorities, it was business as
usual in a time of mourning. In a dramatic raid Wednesday, Federal
Agency of Investigation agents (one of the units of the Public
Safety Department) freed the coach of the popular Cruz Azul soccer
team, Ruben Omar Romano, arresting his captors. Criminals had held
Romano for $5 million
(US) ransom since July.
Cruz Azul is atop the standings (which may speak to their
respect for their coach, or perhaps for his superfluity). Captive
or no, Romano knew all about it. The kidnappers allowed Romano to
watch his team's televised games.