16 cops killed in Colombia helicopter crash
05 August 2015, Nirapad News: Sixteen Colombian police officers died Tuesday when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed while taking part in a manhunt for the nation’s most-wanted drug trafficker, the second deadly air accident affecting the U.S.-trained military in less than a week.
Two other uniformed personnel were in critical condition and being treated for serious burns, news.yahoo.com reported.
Authorities attributed the crash to bad weather. But the location, in a dense jungle near the Gulf of Uraba dominated by drug traffickers and also a refuge for leftist rebels, immediately fueled speculation that the helicopter may have been fired on.
Colombia’s biggest newspaper, El Tiempo, posted on its website an audio recording that it said was a cockpit recording from an aircraft that was accompanying the crashed helicopter. In the recording, an unidentified person remarks that the downed aircraft appeared to have been shot at from the ground and possibly was hit by a homemade mortar shell often used by rebels. The Bogota-based paper didn’t say how it obtained the recording.
While not ruling out the possibility of an attack, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said two other helicopters participating in the mission would have detected any gunfire and didn’t observe any.
He said the most likely hypothesis was that low-lying cloud cover obstructed the pilots’ visibility and the Black Hawk crashed at a speed of 180 kph (110 mph) into a hillside. The aircraft was destroyed, he said.
Police said the Black Hawk was part of a mission hunting Dairo Otoniel Usaga, leader of Colombia’s most violent drug-smuggling gang. Since February, authorities with the support of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have intensified the manhunt for Otoniel, for whose capture the United States has offered a $5 million reward.
The incident follows the death of 11 air force personnel whose CASA-235 airplane crashed last week near the Caribbean coast in an accident also attributed to bad weather..