10 Nicaraguan officers, soldiers die in helicopter crash

(updated June 20, 11:00 p.m.)- The Nicaraguan Army is conducting a second day of search and recovery in León after one of the military’s Russian-made MI17 helicopters crashed Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m, killing all 10 men aboard, including the head of the Nicaraguan Air Force and several other high-ranking military brass.

The military helicopter, which was flying near the Momotombo Volcano on an unspecific “work mission,” reportedly suffered mechanical problems and fell some 1,500 meters out of the sky and exploded on impact at the edge of Lake Managua. The pilot issued distress call moments before the crash, according to the army’s spokesman.

As of Thursday night, only one of the bodies had been recovered. The corpse of Colonel Mario Alberto Jirón López was found in Lake Managua around 3 p.m. on Thursday, along with part of the helicopter’s fuselage, the army reports. The other victims have not yet been found.

El Nuevo Diario reports that a fisherman in the area claimed he found severed body parts of a second victim floating in the lake, but those reports were not immediately verified by the army.

Most of the wreckage is thought to have fallen into the lake, where army divers have been searching for the bodies.

The victims, eight of which were ranking officers in the Nicaraguan Army, were: Colonel Manuel Antonio López, head of the Nicaraguan Air Force; Colonel Mario Alberto Jirón, base chief for aircraft repairs; Colonel Eugenio Enrique Alfaro, chief of operations; Lieutenant Colonel Aldo Mauricio Herrera, head weapons officer; Lieutenant Colonel Chester Porfirio Vargas; head of intelligence and counterintelligence for the Air Force; Lieutenant Colonel Ildefonso José Hernández, co-pilot and chief air inspector; Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Cruz, head of personnel; Major Oscar Antonio Silva, aviation technician; Osmar Antonio Acosta, anti-aircraft artilleryman; and Cristhian López Garcias, Air Force accountant.

The cause of the accident is still unknown.



  • http://www.arthotelmanagua.com Karla Corea, Art Hotel Managua

    This is truly a tragedy for Nicaragua. Sometimes people don’t realize the important role Nicaragua’s military provides, primarily responding to potential rescue situations and disaster relief. These men provided oversight, discipline, and organization to the armed forces.

    The staff at the Art Hotel had the opportunity to serve Colonel Chester Vargas in the past and we can state that he was quite kind, down to Earth, and friendly. Our condolences go out to his family and the families of the other officers.

    This unfortunate event provides us with some insight into the risk that the men and women in Nicaragua’s armed forces place upon themselves to serve our country.

    Staff of the Art Hotel Managua

  • Arturo Morales

    A couple of years ago, a Colombian spy was caught. He was snooping around military bases and other installations. Obviously, he was not the only Colombian spy around; there are surely more, many more. Even more so after the ICJ ruling regarding territorial waters in the Caribbean. I’m not at all a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t think its far-fetched to assume the Colombians could have had a hand in this; they’re capable of pretty much anything…..Just saying

  • Robert

    Something tells me this is a job of las contras that are starting to clean the country.

    • Carlotta Chamorro

      Atentado es contra Ortega en aniversario de la contra, you are correcto!

  • Doug

    This is horrific tragic helicopter accident. I do not put faith in Russian aircraft having flown the globe (pilot in commercial aircraft) and started my career working for the premiere Helicopter company as a Mechanic/Crew Chief/Instructor Sikorsky Aircraft). Possibly the government should consider a different manufacture.

  • Carlotta Chamorro

    Atentado es contra Ortega en aniversario de la contra

  • Pedro S.

    While I am not a big fan of conspiracy theories, this crash with its high incident of senior military officers does make me wonder. I disregard the Columbia and US connections.
    The US military and Nicaragua Military have very good relations and cooperate on a regular basis, my trend of thought leads me to suspect the ruling party.
    Since the modern Nicaragua Army emerged from the Sandinista Army it has strived to be a professional organization, its officers go overseas to train, it has a well organized command structure, has high standards for its recruits and prides itself on being apolitical. It adheres to the belief that their role is to the country and the constitution. In other words it is the one organization that Ortega and the Sandinistas do not control and the one organization that could potentially oppose the current government.
    If you start eliminating the older senior ranks by whatever means. Their replacements will be the younger, less experienced officers. Often more easily manipulated by political entities.
    A similar thing happened with the Policia National a few years ago when senior Police Officers were retired due to the fact that their terms were up, giving the Sandinistas an opportunity to influence who was chosen as their replacements.
    Just a thought.