The Chilean foreign ministry confirmed the deaths of General Jose Alejandro Bernales, the country's police chief, police commanders Oscar Tapia and Ricardo Orozco, Captain Mauricio Fuenzalida, and Tapia's wife, Carolina Reyes.

 

Mourning

 

Bernales was attending an anti-terrorism
conference in Panama City [AFP]
Following news of the incident, Chile declared three days of national mourning, and flags were lowered to half-staff.

 

Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean president, described Bernales as "a great, great police director, an important support for the government on order and security matters".

 

"I am very, very sad. I feel a great pain," she said.

 

Martin Torrijos, the Panamanian president who was attending a regional conference in El Salvador, called Bachelet to express his condolence.

 

A witness who was driving by the scene at the time of the crash said the helicopter exploded when it hit the building.

 

"We heard a fearful noise and we fled into the street," said Florencia Thompson, a personnel manager at a warehouse next to the one hit by the helicopter.