Ex-pilot with Public Security Ministry dies in helicopter crash with 347 kilos of cocaine

May 1, 2009

Amid the wreckage of a downed helicopter in Cerro de la Muerte, rescue crews found an estimated 347 kilograms of cocaine.

Officials with the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) are still determining the precise amount, but the shipment could be much greater, according to the Public Security Ministry.

The aircraft was carrying a pilot and a companion when it descended into the forested area between San José and San Isidro de El General in the Southern Zone on Friday, killing them both.

The pilot, Edgar Arguedas, worked for the Public Security Ministry for 15 years, the ministry said. The passenger, whose name still hasn´t been confirmed, is from Mexico.

The plane left from Pérez Zeledón in the south and was heading toward Turrialba, which is just east of San José, but veered from the typical flight path to follow “a more dangerous” route, ministry officials said.

Janina Del Vecchio, public security minister, indicated this is the first time that her office has seen drugs transported via helicopter.

“Clearly the presence of Mexican cartels in Costa Rica is worrisome,” she said in a statement.

“Such a large amount of suspected cocaine, transported to a warehouse in Costa Rica, confirms what I have been saying, that Costa Rica is not only a transit country for cocaine, but also for storage,” she said.

After her office received criticism for losing 320 kg in confiscated cocaine from a guarded storage unit in March, Del Vecchio assured Costa Ricans that this supply would be guarded appropriately.

“From the first moment, the matter has been handled with absolute discretion and confidentiality, implementing prevention (and security) measures to avoid any surprise.”

News sources are linking the helicopter to one used by White House hotel in San Antonio de Escazú, though repeated phone calls to the resort were unreturned at The Tico Times´ deadline.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident.

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