Plane Carrying Two U.S. Officials Reported Missing in Chile
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ A police airplane carrying five people, including two officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was reported missing on a flight from northern Chile to Santiago, authorities said today.
Authorities said there was no indication of sabotage. No guerrillas are believed to operate in the areas the plane flew over.
The American officials were identified as John Harty and Patrick Pouzar. The FDA officials arrived in Chile on Saturday to investigate security measures taken by Chilean authorities in handling fruit for export to the United States.
Police said the two-engine Cessna 206 disappeared Wednesday after taking off at 5:20 p.m. from Copiapo, a city 500 miles to the north. The plane was due to land 9:10 p.m. at Tobalaba airport in Santiago.
In Washington, FDA spokesman Jeff Nesbit said Harty, of Silver Spring, Md., is director of the agency’s international affairs staff in the FDA’s Office of Health Affairs in Rockville, Md.
Nesbit said Pouzar is director of investigations in the FDA’s Nashville, Tenn., district office and lives in Nashville.
Nesbit said the two had visited several fruit-processing facilities in northern Chile. They left the United States on Friday and were expected back Monday, said Bill Oates, acting director of the Nashville office.
The spokesman said the Chilean foreign minister informed the U.S. Embassy in Santiago at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday that the men’s plane was two hours overdue. There has been no electronic communication with the plane since then, he said.
The Chileans on board are Oscar Badilla, a government agricultural official; Sergio Lazcano, an executive of the Fruit Exporters Association; and an unidentified pilot, police officer German Fuentes said.
Police said a wide search for the missing airplane was in progress this morning, involving police and air force planes.
The FDA officials were in Chile to check security in the Chilean fruit exports process after two grapes laced with cyanide were found in Philadelphia last year. The finding prompted a temporary suspension of the sale of all Chilean fruits in the United States.