Dust and lack of light were factors in the crash Friday of an armed forces helicopter that killed 13 people in the town of Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca.
National Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos said the pilot of the Black Hawk helicopter became disoriented by poor visibility when it was about to land in a field at 10:15 that night.
It fell to the ground, landing on several vehicles that were part of an encampment of victims of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck that afternoon. They had left their homes for fear of further damage due to aftershocks, taking shelter in the field.
The aircraft was carrying Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Governor Alejandro Murat, who had flown to the area to inspect the damage and review aid efforts.
The quake struck at 5:39pm 11 kilometers south of the nearby city of Pinotepa Nacional.
On Saturday, Cienfuegos said he assumed full responsibility for the accident and promised aid for the victims, including medical attention, compensation and rebuilding houses damaged by the quake.
Sixteen people, all residents of the community in Oaxaca’s coastal region, were injured in the crash. It was confirmed on Saturday that there were 13 fatalities after earlier reports said there were at least 14 and perhaps as many as 30.
Both Cienfuegos and Governor Murat visited the families of those who died in the accident to express their condolences.
Among them was 20-year-old Eduardo Flores Velasco who, after losing his mother and his older brother, spoke his mind to the Oaxaca governor.
He wondered why the aircraft had not come during the day because there was no electricity in the town, and therefore no light.
“Why fly over an area to inspect houses damaged by the earthquake when the light was so poor that it would have been impossible [to see anything],” Flores said, becoming a spokesman for the community.
Residents were in agreement that a tragedy had been created where before there hadn’t been one.
“For fear of the aftershocks, we went there [to the field] to look after ourselves . . . they made coffee, they were heating tortillas, we were talking when the soldiers told us the governor was coming . . .”
And it all turned into “a terrible tragedy.”