Spanish soldiers killed in Haiti crash receive state funeral

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Spain's King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero presided Tuesday over a state funeral for four Spanish soldiers killed on a helicopter crash in Haiti.

The troops, part of Spain's 450-member military detachment sent to Haiti after the January 12 quake that killed 220,000 people, were posthumously awarded the Cross of Naval Merit during the ceremony at the Rota Naval Base in southwestern Spain.

The men died Friday in the crash of their helicopter near the Dominican border, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) east of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.

"The cause is still under investigation, but the accident was mainly due to weather, including heavy clouds, and the geographical conditions in mountainous areas where there are air currents" that cause problems for pilots, Spain's Consul General in Haiti, Juan Carlos Gomez, said Sunday.

The helicopter went down in the same area where a Uruguayan transport plane crashed October 9, killing 11 peacekeepers -- six Uruguayans and five Jordanians.

© 2010 AFP

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