US, France to join Mexico helicopter crash probe

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US and French civil aviation authorities will join the investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Mexican Interior Secretary Francisco Blake Mora, officials said.

Blake, a key figure in the country's bitter war on drug cartels, died in the crash near Mexico City on Friday, along with seven other people. The aircraft was a Super Puma manufactured in France by Eurocopter in 1983.

Communications and Transportation Minister Dionisio Perez-Jacome told reporters late Friday that Mexico had reached out to the US National Transportation Safety Board and the French civil aviation accident investigation service for help in the probe.

The helicopter picked up Blake and three colleagues from Campo Marte, a military base close to the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City.

The officials had planned to travel from there to Cuernavaca, in the neighboring state of Morelos, for a meeting of prosecutors, Perez-Jacome said.

"According to the information available, there were layers of low-altitude fog and poor visibility at that point" on the aircraft's trajectory, he added.

The control tower last detected the helicopter on its radars at 8:55 am (1655 GMT).

Helicopter parts were found nearly two hours later, on a hill at an altitude of 2,600 meters (8,530 feet) in Chalco, near the capital.

Blake, 45, was the second interior secretary to die in an air accident during the presidency of Felipe Calderon, after Juan Camilo Mourino died in a small plane crash in Mexico City three years ago.

Calderon, who canceled his trip to a weekend summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Hawaii following Blake's death, said the crash was likely an accident due to poor weather conditions and promised a full investigation that would examine "all probabilities."

© 2011 AFP

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