Friday, December 1, 2023

Narco-plane crashes in Querétaro after military chase that began in Chiapas

A plane carrying 400 kilos of cocaine crashed in a remote area of Querétaro on Monday night after it was pursued by Mexican military aircraft. The two people aboard were killed.

Videos posted to social media show at least three military helicopters in pursuit of the low-flying Cessna, which was first detected by air force radar in Chiapas.

Initially, two Blackhawk helicopters and a Beechcraft King Air plane were dispatched to engage the suspect plane whose pilot refused requests to identify himself. As the chase progressed, more military aircraft joined the pursuit. 

Witnesses say they watched the aerial chase unfold for over an hour until they simply stopped hearing the Cessna’s engine after it disappeared from view, indicating it might have run out of fuel before it crashed around 9 p.m.

The plane was found in pieces in a cow pasture at a ranch in La Botija near the border with Michoacán. Both of the plane’s occupants were found dead at the crash scene, one inside the plane and one out.

During its descent, the plane collided with several trees, spewing its cargo over a wide area. The National Guard cordoned off the area and prohibited access even to the property’s owners as they recovered 355 packages of cocaine from the area surrounding the crash site. 

Suspicious airplanes are a fairly regular occurrence in Mexico, where cartels often use small planes to transport drugs north from South America to their eventual destinations in the United States. The air force has an aerial vigilance system, a network of radar and sophisticated aerial tracking software to track suspicious flights in Mexican airspace even before they enter.

According to the aviation industry publication Aviacionline, the network monitors 32% of Mexican airspace and can communicate with the aerial surveillance networks of other countries, including the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command.

In July, the network tracked a plane from Venezuela that made a forced landing on a state highway in Quintana Roo with 390 kilos of cocaine. Air force officials had been monitoring the Hawker 700 aircraft’s route since shortly after it took off from an airstrip south of Maracaibo, Venezuela.

The plane, authorities said, had no flight plan and was not using a transponder, fitting the profile of a “clandestine aircraft” used for smuggling.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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