(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.