Helicopter crash in Panama kills Chilean police chief and ten others

Saturday, May 31, 2008

File:Gral José Bernales.jpg
Gen. José Alejandro Bernales

A helicopter named SAN-100 crashed Thursday at 14:00 local time (09:00 UTC) on a roof in Banana Price, Calidonia, Panama City, Panama. The crash was a block from by Q street and Central Avenue. The crash also started a small fire. Of the 12 people aboard, half of whom were Chilean federal police officers and the other half Panamanian police officers, only Hernaldo Carrasco, the co-pilot, survived.

It is feared that civilians on the ground may have died, but as of yet there is no official death toll of non-passengers. Jose Bernales, the commander of IV region, and his wife also died in the crash.

The SAN-100 has been operated for 35 years and belongs to Panama. "It was a flying relic," said Omar Torrijos Pauzner, the brother of Panama's president. According to local TV channel Telemetro, the helicopter was used in Vietnam War, and the United States gave it to Panama after the war. Telemetro also reported the chopper had a broken part that was due to be replaced on June 4.

Martin Torrijos, Panama's President, communicated his sympathies to Chile and paid particular tribute to Bernales for his support of the Panamanian police force.