Eight Americans Believed Dead in Guatemala Plane Crash
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department has notified the families of five Americans believed to have been on an Aerovias jetliner that crashed in a northern Guatemalan jungle over the weekend, killing all aboard, a department spokesman said Sunday.
The department was basing its identifications of the victims on ″strong circumstantial evidence,″ including such things as the finding of a passport and an eyewitness having seen someone board the aircraft, spokesman Pete Martinez said.
Eight Americans were believed to have been killed in the Saturday crash.
″The terrain in which the airplane crashed has not allowed us to make positive, absolute identification,″ Martinez said.
The families notified by the State Department were told the identification was tentative and that it might be ″some time″ before verification could be made, he said.
The department identified the five as Dr. Robert Todd Sweeney and his wife, Patricia; Paul Consolvo; Jeffrey Sage; and John Puffett, an Agriculture Department employee. The department said it did not know their ages.
Martinez listed the Sweeneys’ hometown as Indianapolis and Consolvo’s as Virginia Beach, Va. He said Sage was from Long Island, N.Y., and Puffett’s home town was not known.
However, relatives and hospital officials say the Sweeneys were from Cincinnati. They said Sweeney was 39 and his wife was 36, and they had two sons, aged 4 and 7, who were staying with relativs in Cincinnati.
Dr. Mark Abshier, an Owensboro, Ky., physician married to Patricia Sweeney’s sister, said Mrs. Sweeney’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Bellew of Owensboro, and Sweeney’s mother, Betty Harrington of Lexington, Ky., had been notified that the Sweeneys were listed as being aboard the plane.
The couple were taking a side trip by air to visit Mayan ruins, and had planned to return home Sunday, Abshier said.
Anita Jansen, assistant public relations director for St. Luke Hospital in nearby northern Kentucky, said Sweeney had worked there since 1981. She said the State Department and the American Red Cross had confirmed for the hospital that the Sweeneys were among the passengers.
Ms. Jansen said the couple had planned the trip as a vacation and for Sweeney to investigate the possibility of working in South America.
″He was interested in possibly practicing medicine there for the missions,″ she said.
Martinez, told of the conflicting reports Sunday night, repeated that his information listed the Sweeneys’ hometown as Indianapolis.
The airline listed three other Americans as being among the 93 victims of the crash: Ruth Gonzalez, Teresa Rodriguez and Walter Peter Chinze. The airline’s list did not include hometowns.