Pubdate: Sun, 06 Oct 2013
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press
Author: Vivian Sequera, The Associated Press
Page: 16A



3 Americans Die, 2 Others Seriously Injured in Counter-Drug Flight

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - A small plane on a U.S. counterdrug mission 
crashed Saturday in a remote 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, Fla., that runs drug interdiction in the region, the 
U.S. military said.

Such planes typically track speedboats that smuggle cocaine from 
Colombia north into Central America and the Caribbean, but a 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 said that the plane was 
contracted by the U.S. government. The twin-engine turboprop 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, with multiple bone 
fractures and burns, officials said. The names of the Americans were 
withheld pending notification of relatives.

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.

"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.

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.

The plane was contracted to monitor drug trafficking routes as part 
of Operation Martillo, Southcom said. Operation Martillo (Hammer) is 
part of the $165 million, U.S.-led regional security initiative that 
focuses on the seas off Central America, key shipping routes for 90 
percent of the cocaine headed to the U.S. Fourteen countries participate.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom