A Hawker 800 jet reported stolen from the Cuernavaca, Morelos, airport crashed Tuesday night in a Guatemala cornfield while trying to land on a clandestine runway, the Guatemalan army reported.
Packages of cocaine, cell phones and firearms were found among what was left of the charred plane in Santa Marta Salinas, Guatemalan authorities said, along with bodies of two people who had been aboard. Their nationality is pending confirmation.
The plane took off from the Mariano Matamoros International Airport Tuesday morning without authorization or filing a flight plan.
Officials in Morelos say three men wearing commercial pilot uniforms passed through security around 8:20 a.m. and entered the hangar in Cuernavaca where they fueled up the private jet, paying with a credit card, and one of the three left.
The two other men turned off the plane’s radios and took off, nearly crashing into another plane in the process.
It landed at 4 p.m. at the international airport in Zulia, Venezuela, before taking off again at 5:50 p.m. and heading north with a load of cocaine, Guatemalan officials said.
Guatemalan military authorities tracked the plane’s route and military forces in different parts of the country were put on alert.
Radar showed the plane entering Guatemalan airspace at 8 p.m. It reached the intended landing strip about 30 minutes later where it crashed.
In July, a plane traveling from Venezuela carrying 390 kilos of cocaine valued at 109 million pesos (US $4.89 million) crashed on a Quintana Roo highway. Its occupants escaped into the nearby forest.
According to official data, so far this year Guatemalan security forces have located 26 planes used in drug trafficking in rural areas in the north and south of the country.
In 2019, Guatemala confiscated 54 aircraft on suspicion of having been used to transport drugs.
International cartels use Guatemala and the rest of Central America to traffic drug shipments headed north. According to the United States, 90% of the cocaine smuggled into that country arrives by airplane, boat and submarine from Mexico and Central America.