Nicaraguan Mi-17 crash kills 10
The Nicaraguan Army issued a statement on 23 June confirming that 10 members of the army air force (FAEN) had been killed after a Mil Mi-17 helicopter crashed on 20 June.
The Mi-17 (serial no 334) crashed over Lake Xolotlan. Among the 10 on board were seven colonels and lieutenant colonels who held major posts within the FAEN.
The group of officers had been airlifted by the helicopter to inspect training manoeuvres in the El Papalonal sector in La Paz Centro in the early morning. The aircraft's crew reported a malfunction on their way back to Managua.
The cause of the accident has not been established, but on 24 June the Nicaraguan Armed Forces Commander, General Julio Cesar Aviles, discarded the notion that it was a technical malfunction, stressing that the FAEN maintenance crews work hard to keep their helicopters airworthy.
The military helicopter, which was flying near the Momotombo Volcano on an unspecific “work mission,” reportedly suffered mechanical problems and fell some 1,500 meters out of the sky and exploded on impact at the edge of Lake Managua. The pilot issued distress call moments before the crash, according to the army’s spokesman.
As of Thursday night, only one of the bodies had been recovered. The corpse of Colonel Mario Alberto Jirón López was found in Lake Managua around 3 p.m. on Thursday, along with part of the helicopter’s fuselage, the army reports. The other victims have not yet been found.
El Nuevo Diario reports that a fisherman in the area claimed he found severed body parts of a second victim floating in the lake, but those reports were not immediately verified by the army.
Most of the wreckage is thought to have fallen into the lake, where army divers have been searching for the bodies.
The victims, eight of which were ranking officers in the Nicaraguan Army, were: Colonel Manuel Antonio López, head of the Nicaraguan Air Force; Colonel Mario Alberto Jirón, base chief for aircraft repairs; Colonel Eugenio Enrique Alfaro, chief of operations; Lieutenant Colonel Aldo Mauricio Herrera, head weapons officer; Lieutenant Colonel Chester Porfirio Vargas; head of intelligence and counterintelligence for the Air Force; Lieutenant Colonel Ildefonso José Hernández, co-pilot and chief air inspector; Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Cruz, head of personnel; Major Oscar Antonio Silva, aviation technician; Osmar Antonio Acosta, anti-aircraft artilleryman; and Cristhian López Garcias, Air Force accountant.
The cause of the accident is still unknown.
Source: Inigo Guevara, Washington, DC - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly News & By Nicaragua Dispatch (nicaraguadispatch.com) - 25 June 2013
Photo: One of Nicaraguan Army's Mil Mi-17 military helicopter crashed this morning in León
(Photo by Tim Rogers)