San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cocaine Found at Site of Fatal Helicopter Crash

Amidst 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, May 1. Both were found dead.

The pilot, Edgar Arguedas, had worked for the Public Security Ministry for 15 years, the ministry said. The passenger, whose name was still not confirmed as of Wednesday, was determined to be from Mexico.

According to the Public Security Ministry, he was carrying several identities. The plane left from TobíasBolanosAirport in Pavas and was headed toward Quepos, a port town on the Central Pacific, when it veered from the typical flight path to follow “a more dangerous” route, ministry officials said.

Public Security Minister Janina Del Vecchio said this is the first time 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 kilograms in confiscated cocaine from a guarded storage unit in March, Del Vecchio assured Costa Ricans that this supply would be guarded appropriately.

She told media groups on Wednesday that there is no evidence the drugs found in the helicopter came from the same supply as the drugs stolen in March.

Authorities still are investigating the cause of the accident.

– Chrissie Long


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