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U.N. Helicopter Crash Kills 13

March 16, 1999

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Rappelling down cables on a rugged Haitian Mountain, a U.S. Coast Guard team on Tuesday tried to recover the charred bodies of 13 people killed in a U.N. helicopter crash.

The site, about 30 miles northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, was amid 4,000-foot peaks too rocky for rescue helicopters to land and too steep to reach by foot.

There were no survivors from the accident Sunday night, said U.N. spokesman Daniel Amiot-Priso.

The site is ``so high up, roadless, hilly, and covered with boulders that even goats won’t risk clambering up there,″ said Manio Colas, provincial correspondent of the private Radio Metropole on Tuesday morning.

Recovery efforts were going slowly, and Amiot-Priso said it was unlikely any bodies would be returned to the capital before Wednesday.

The Russian-made MI-8 helicopter was en route to Cap Haitien on the north coast to pick up an injured Finnish tourist. It lost radio contact 15 minutes after takeoff from Port-au-Prince.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter discovered the crash site Monday afternoon. A rescue team camped there overnight.

Those on board included five Argentine police officers and an Argentine doctor serving with the United Nations in Haiti; six Russian crew members; and Errol Van Eaton, a maintenance chief from International Charter Inc., the Oregon-based company that contracted the helicopter. Van Eaton, 51, of Everett, Wash., was a Vietnam veteran and U.S. Army Reserve brigadier general.

``Most bodies were burned beyond recognition,″ said Fred Eckhard, a U.N. spokesman in New York.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed ``profound sadness″ at the deaths and extended his condolences to the families of the victims, Eckhard said.

The United Nations is sending an air safety investigator to the scene, he said.

The crashed helicopter was the second sent to help the Finnish tourist after a first helicopter developed a fuel leak.

The 140 Argentine police in Haiti are protecting about 140 U.N. instructors who are training the country’s police. In 1995, U.N. peacekeepers replaced an American force that had removed a military-backed government and reinstalled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president in 1994.

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