Mexico helicopter crash called 'accident'

Senior officials including President Calderon rule out link between interior minister's death and anti-drug offensive.

    Initial investigations have indicated the helicopter crash was accidental rather than sabotage [Reuters]

    Despite speculation surrounding the death of Mexico's interior minister, senior government officials say initial indications are that the fatal helicopter crash was an accident.

    President Felipe Calderon seemed to be trying to quell any suggestions of sabotage, saying on Saturday that Francisco Blake Mora's helicopter "was always under guard" in the Secret Service hangar and that it had recently undergone maintenance.

    He also said the loss of Blake Mora will not weaken the offensive against drug cartels and, if anything, will toughen it.

    Dionisio Perez-Jacome, the communications and transportation minister, said thick fog probably caused Friday's crash.

    An exhaustive investigation is under way, but the initial results indicate the crash was an accident, he said on Saturday.

    "At this time we have no indications, no evidence ... that would make one suspect that this is anything other than an
    accident," he said.

    That contradicted an earlier report in a Mexican newspaper, citing a preliminary investigation, that pilot error could have caused the crash.

    So far the investigation shows that when the helicopter hit the ground, it was structurally complete, Perez-Jacome said.

    Expert help sought

    Video of the wreckage suggested the helicopter crashed into the hillside and broke in half, but did not explode or burn.

    Perez-Jacome earlier said the government had asked US and French aviation crash experts to help in the investigation.

    Juan Marcos Gutierrez Gonzalez, the deputy interior secretary, who is assuming Blake Mora's position on a temporary basis, has also said the aircraft did not explode.


    Mexico has begun an investigation into the crash

    Speaking at a memorial service on Saturday, Calderon said the best way to pay tribute to Blake Mora and the seven others is "to keep fighting with greater conviction for the things they fought for".

    Blake Mora's body was cremated later in the day and the ashes taken to his native Tijuana.

    The 45-year-old politician had been the face of the government's drug war, carrying a message to stay tough and bringing new offensives to states beleaguered by drug violence.

    He was on his way to a meeting of prosecutors when he died.

    "The best way to honour these citizens ... is to step up the efforts to transform Mexico into the country they wanted," Calderon said at a military field where thousands of people, including cabinet members, governors and relatives of Blake Mora mourned the crash victims.

    Calderon then offered his condolences to Blake Mora's wife and children and gave them a portrait of Blake Mora and the Mexican flag that covered his coffin during the vigil.

    Bloody conflict

    In the front lines of his country's bloody war against drug cartels, Blake Mora has become the second interior minister during Calderon's term as president to be killed in an aviation accident.

    Mexico is locked in a bloody conflict against drug cartels that has killed 45,000 people in the last five years and Blake Mora was a prominent member of Calderon's security team.

    On November 4, 2008, Juan Camilo Mourino and several other people died when their small aircraft crashed next to a major Mexico City boulevard during rush hour.

    Investigators concluded that Mourino's aircraft had been flying too close to a much bigger jet ahead of it, on the flight path to land at Mexico City airport, possibly causing a fatal wave of turbulence.

    The last tweet on Blake Mora's Twitter account was on November 4, when he paid tribute to Mourino.

    "Today we remember Juan Camilo Mourino three years after his passing, a human being who worked towards the realisation of a better Mexico," Blake Mora said in the tweet.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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