13 dead after helicopter crash at Mexico earthquake site

Our Foreign Staff
View of the military helicopter that fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca state - AFP

A military helicopter carrying officials assessing damage from a powerful earthquake crashed Friday in southern Mexico, killing 13 people and injuring 15, all of them on the ground.

The Oaxaca state prosecutor's office said in a statement that five women, four men and three children were killed at the crash site and another person died later at the hospital.

A state government official who was not authorized to be quoted by name said the chopper crashed into a group of people who had been spending the night in an open field after a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the area. Aftershocks had caused people to flee their homes for fear they would collapse.

The Defence Department said the Blackhawk helicopter suffered the mishap when it was preparing to land on a vacant lot in the city of Jamiltepec, about 19 miles from the area of Pinotepa Nacional.

Technicians work at the site of the accident where a military helicopter fell on a van Credit: ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images

The craft was carrying Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat, neither of whom had serious injuries.

The accident was the latest embarrassment in Mr Navarrete's short term at the Interior Department, which oversees most political and security issues.

Earlier this month, an intelligence agent from an agency overseen by Mr Navarrete's department was caught tailing an opposition presidential candidate.

A woman is helped outside, along Reforma Avenue after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Mexico City Credit: AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Both Mr Navarrete and the defense department said they regretted the loss of life in Friday's accident.

Jorge Morales, a local reporter who was aboard the helicopter when it crashed, described harrowing moments as the pilot lost control and the helicopter attempted to land in a swirl of dust.

"The moment the helicopter touched down it lost control, it slid - like, it skidded - and it hit some vehicles that were stationed in the area," he told a Mexican television news program.

"In that moment, you couldn't see anything, nothing else was heard beside the sound that iron makes when it scrapes the earth."