Monday, April 15, 2024

Helicopter tapes released; results of crash probe expected at year end

The federal government yesterday released a transcript of the radio communication between the helicopter in which the governor of Puebla and her husband were killed and the control tower at Puebla International Airport, and said that there was no evidence that foul play caused the crash of the aircraft.

Martha Erika Alonso, former Puebla governor and Senator Rafael Moreno Valle, two pilots and a political aide all died after the helicopter in which they were traveling plunged to the ground just outside the city of Puebla on Christmas Eve.

The transcript reveals that the final communication between the helicopter and the air control tower was at 2:35pm on December 24.

The helicopter pilot who spoke to air traffic control didn’t indicate that the aircraft was experiencing any difficulties or problems.

However, when the air control tower next tried to contact the helicopter at 2:39 pm, there was no response and over the course of the next 10 minutes a further 10 attempts to reach the aircraft also went unanswered.

According to Carlos Morán Moguel, an undersecretary at the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT), investigations into the fatal crash have not found any evidence of outside interference, human error on the part of the pilots, previous mechanical problems with the helicopter or that there were explosives on board.

“. . . [There is] nothing that makes us imagine that there was any aggressive event against the aircraft,” he said.

Morán said the SCT expects to have a final report about the crash by the end of the year although he explained that investigations into aviation accidents can in some cases take more than two years.

Laboratories in Canada, Italy and the United States will review the fragmented helicopter parts during March and April, he said, explaining that there are “digital chips” inside the parts that could offer clues about the cause of the accident.

“There is a possibility of extracting some information even though they [the helicopter parts] are badly burned, experts tell us that information can be obtained,” Morán said.

On the day of the accident, the undersecretary said, the helicopter took off from a heliport in Puebla City called Triángulo de las Ánimas.

From there, the helicopter flew a distance of “fewer than three kilometers” to the home of business magnate José Chedraui, where it landed in the garden and picked up Alonso and Moreno, Morán said.

The information about the stop had not previously been revealed and contradicts comments made on the day of the accident by Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo, who said that the helicopter crashed after taking off from Triángulo de las Ánimas and made no mention of Chedraui’s home.

The final destination of the helicopter was to be a private heliport in Mexico City, where the governor and her husband are believed to have planned to attend a Christmas party.

However, around 10 minutes after the helicopter left Chedraui’s home it crashed in a field in the municipality of Coronango.

The release of the communication transcript yesterday came the day after President López Obrador said that he would ask Transportation Secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú to review a decision to place a five-year embargo on the release of the audio tapes.

“My recommendation is that there be complete transparency,” the president said.

The Civil Aviation Agency (DGAC), a division of the SCT, had said that releasing the recording was not in the public interest, would have a negative impact on aviation and national security and could place future international cooperation on aviation accident investigations at risk. However, shortly after López Obrador’s remarks, it backed down on its five-year embargo plan.

Morán said yesterday that he considered the embargo to be “excessive” but explained that the reservation of information for that period of time has been a standard practice of the DGAC.

He also acknowledged that there has been criticism of the government for not providing updates about the progress of the accident investigations but explained that was because there was “nothing new to report.”  National Action Party (PAN) president Marko Cortés said this week there had been a “suspicious silence.”

Secretary Jiménez stressed, however, that the government won’t hide anything.

“When we have the experts’ report there will complete transparency and we’ll report what we can along the way. We have the clear instruction and conviction to reveal everything,” he said.

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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