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Early Report Blames Mechanical Failure for Plane Crash

February 8, 1996

ENSENADA, Mexico (AP) _ Mechanical failure that caused a fire is to blame for the crash of a small plane into a mountainside, killing all eight people aboard, according to a preliminary report by the Mexican Communications and Transportation Department.

Federal officials were on the scene of Tuesday’s crash and will release a final report when they complete their investigation, a ministry spokeswoman, Rosalba Paulin, said in Mexico City on Wednesday.

Among the victims was Leobardo Roa Helmecke, a 42-year-old former state congressman and former state president of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. At the time of his death, he was state director of the National Housing Institute.

``This has caused a great deal of consternation in Baja California, especially here in Mexicali, because he was from here. He was very well-known,″ said Francisco Lizarraga, information chief of the daily newspaper, Voz de la Frontera, in the state capital of Mexicali.

The other victims were identified by police as pilot Selim Weber Hernandez, co-pilot Francisco Delgado Arreola; National Housing Institute employees Jesus Plascencia Posada, Sergio Alberto Acero, Arturo Paz Alvarez and Ines Sanchez Ayala; and the leading stockholder of the company Geo Provi, Manuel Esparza Leon.

Officials from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and officials from Cessna Aircraft Co., maker of the twin-turbine airplane, were also expected to arrive here Wednesday to participate in the investigation, Lizarraga said.

Eyewitness Carlos Guerrero told a Tijuana television station, XEWT, that he heard the Cessna 500 Citation sputtering in an attempt to gain altitude just after 1 p.m. Tuesday. But the pilot couldn’t pull up in time, and the plane smashed into the mountain, exploding three times, he said.

Heavy fog covered the coastal area at the time of the crash, which occurred at Rancho Packard, a canyon a few miles off the main highway.

Rescue workers recovered the bodies from the crash site, and wreckage was found spread across the area, said police 2nd Lt. Javier Munoz, of the nearby town of El Maneadero.

The bodies were removed to the Integral Family Development office in Ensenada for identification.

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