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Police Helicopter Crashes into Mexico City Kindergarten

March 18, 1996

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A police helicopter chasing bank robbers crashed into a kindergarten in Mexico City on Monday, killing three crew members. The 10 children in the school at the time escaped without injuries.

``Things fell off the wall. A window broke and I heard a big noise,″ said Cristian Villamil, a 5-year-old in a Mickey Mouse shirt who was being hugged outside the school by his mother, Laura.

The helicopter, with four crew members aboard, was taking part in a police chase when it when down around 1:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EST), said Fernando Ramirez Aguilar, a police spokesman.

Most of the students at the Small World Bilingual Kindergarten had left the building about an hour before the crash. The 10 who remained inside were led out to safety by their teacher.

Residents of the area told reporters they had heard gunshots before the crash. Jesus Rivelo, a witness, said he heard what sounded like a burst of automatic weapons fire and saw the helicopter hit an antenna tower, then twist downward into the corrugated roof of a warehouse at the school.

Ramirez said it was unlikely that the helicopter was shot down.

``Everything points to a mechanical failure,″ he told reporters at the scene.

Three police officers aboard the helicopter died. The pilot was hospitalized with unspecified injuries.

The crash started a fire on the roof of the building, but it was quickly extinguished.

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