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Preliminary Report Blames Landing Gear Failure in Plane Crash

August 13, 1987

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A 35-year-old cargo plane that crashed on a highway and killed 43 people last month was unable to gain enough altitude because of a mechanical failure in its landing gear, a preliminary report said Wednesday.

The mechanical problem prevented the plane’s crew from retracting the plane’s landing gear and gaining the necessary speed to climb to a higher altitude, according to the report from the Civil Aeronautics Office of the Communications and Transportation Department. The report was contained in the government newspaper El Nacional.

The Belize Air International plane, a Boeing 377, crashed July 30 during evening rush hour on the Mexico-Toluca highway, about eight minutes after taking off from the Mexico City International Airport for Miami.

Also killed in the crash were 18 thoroughbred horses it was carrying to competition in the United States.

A spokesman for the federal Attorney General’s Office said no charges will be filed against the crew members because of the preliminary results of the investigation.

Spokesman Francisco Fonseca said the three crew members had been released from the American-British-Cowdray Hospital where they had been recovering from injuries.

A judge issued a detention order against the crew shortly after the crash. Federal authorities had been investigating three for possible negligence.

The detention order expired Wednesday. The current whereabouts of the crew was not known.

The crew members were pilot Frederick Morr, 49, of Hialeah, Fla.; co-pilot Robert Banta, 61, of North Bay Village, Fla.; and flight engineer Forrest Wootten, 55, of Dade County, Fla.

They had earlier told investigators that they had problems with the plane’s landing gear after taking off from the airport.

The preliminary investigation also said no irregularities were found in the plane’s documentation or flight procedures.

No date was set for release of the final results of the government investigation.

The plane, chartered by the Mexican Equestrian Federation, was carrying the horses for quarantine in Miami before taking part in jumping contests in Culpepper, Va., and Hamilton, Mass., for junior teams later this month.

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