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Tue, Feb 17, 2009

Thirteen Lost In Chilean Helicopter Accident

Impacted Mountain While Transporting Fire Crews

Chilean authorities have located the victims of an apparent CFIT helicopter accident in the Andes Sunday.

CNN reports Eduardo Canala Pecchenino, a Chilean air force commander who until December served as the pilot for Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, was transporting 12 firefighters when the helicopter, type unreported, impacted a fog-and-smoke-obscured mountain in central Chile.

All 13 persons onboard were killed in the Sunday afternoon accident. Local fire crews battling a series of forest fires in central Chile were the first responders to the scene.

"The helicopter was totally disintegrated and scattered and the engine was on fire," department commander Carlos Penailillo told El Universal. "Everyone was dead. There were three bodies still inside the cabin, and the rest were spread in the surrounding area, including over some thickets."

The helicopter was owned by Chilean paper company CELCO, and operated by a company referred to as Flight Service in news reports.

Canala had served as presidential pilot since 2000, flying former president Ricardo Lagos until Bachelet's election in 2006. He was slated to report to the Chilean air force war college upon leaving that detail, but had been granted permission to work for the fire crews before starting his next assignment.

"He was a man with much experience, with more than 20 years in the air force and whom I knew personally," federal aviation investigator Sergio Sepulveda told La Nacion.

FMI: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ci.html

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