Pubdate: Sun, 06 Oct 2013
Source: Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press
Author: Vivian Sequera, The Associated Press
Page: A9


(AP) - A small plane on a U.S. counterdrug mission crashed Saturday 
in a remote, jungle region of northern Colombia, killing three 
Americans and a Panamanian National Guardsman and seriously injuring 
the other two Americans aboard.

The Havilland Dash 8 was flying over the western Caribbean when it 
lost radio contact with the U.S.-sponsored multinational task force 
in Key West, Florida that runs drug interdiction in region, the U.S. 
military said.

Such planes typically track speedboats that smuggle cocaine from 
Colombia north into Central America and the Caribbean but U.S. 
Southern Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Ron Flanders said he did not 
have details on the mission.

It was not immediately clear if the Americans aboard were all 
military contractors, although Southcom did say that plane was 
contracted by the U.S. government.

The twin-engine turboprop plane went down near the city of Capurgana 
close to the border with Panama.

The two injured Americans were rescued by Colombian soldiers and 
taken to a hospital in the capital, Bogota, Southcom said. The names 
of the Americans were withheld pending notification of next- of-kin.

Gen. Nicasio de Jesus Martinez, commander of the Colombian army's 
Brigade IV whose troops traveled to the accident scene, ruled out the 
possibility that the plane was shot down by rebels active in Colombia.

"There was no aggression, no impact," said Martinez, adding that it 
was too soon to know if the crash was caused by mechanical failure, 
human error or the weather. Southcom also said there was no 
indication the plane was shot down.

The region where it crashed is mountainous jungle and rebels of the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, operate there along 
with drug traffickers.

Local farmers reported that the plane went down at about 1 a.m. in a 
rural part of the municipality of Acandi, said Mayor Gabriel Jose 
Olivares. Capurgana is in the municipality of Acandi.

Carlos Ivan Marquez, chief of Colombia's national office for disaster 
response, said the surviving Americans had injuries including 
multiple bone fractures and burns over at least 40 percent of their bodies.

Panama's National Air Service identified the deceased Panamanian 
guardsman as Lt. Lloyd Nunez.

Santiago Castro, director of Colombia's Civil Aviation agency, said 
the plane wasn't civilian so he couldn't provide details about its 
route, origin or destination.

The plane was contracted to provide detection and monitoring of drug 
trafficking routes in the coastal region of Central America as part 
of Operation Martillo, Southcom said.

"We express our sympathies to the families of the deceased, and are 
particularly saddened by the loss of a Panamanian Air National 
Guardsman," said Gen. John Kelly, commander of U. S. Southern 
Command. "We also want to thank the Colombians for their outstanding 
rescue and recovery efforts."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom