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Cablegate: Experts Blame Engine Failure for Fatal Helicopter Crash

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2135
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UNCLAS PANAMA 000462

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR PGOV PM CI
SUBJECT: EXPERTS BLAME ENGINE FAILURE FOR FATAL HELICOPTER CRASH

REF: PANAMA 445

This message is Sensitive But Unclassified. Please Handle
Accordingly.

1. (SBU) Panama's Civil Aviation Authority (AAC) announced late June
2 that a failure of the no. 1 engine caused the May 29 SAN-100
helicopter crash that killed 11 people, including several top
Chilean and Panamanian police officials (reftel). AAC Director
Eustacio Fabrega told Econchief June 2 that a multi-national team
composed of Panamanian, American (NTSB and FAA), Chilean, and
Canadian investigators had reached this preliminary determination
based on its initial review of the crash site and the helicopter's
remains. He said there remained many further details yet to
analyze, but that the entire team concurred in the findings. He
added that the helicopter's Pratt & Whitney engines would be sent to
the Canadian site of manufacture for further analysis. As the
helicopter was reportedly designed to be able to fly on one engine,
the investigators expect to evaluate whether the no. 2 engine had
been sufficiently degraded to prevent it from maintaining full
power.

2. (U) The press recently reported that the part of helicopter that
controls the angle of principal rotor was advertised to be replaced
on a government procurement website. The press speculated that this
part and other deferred maintenance was the cause of the crash. The
preliminary determination rules out this part as the cause of the
accident.

3. (U) NTSB Senior Investigator Paul Cox praised the AAC's
leadership of the investigation, noting that the team worked
extremely well together in walking methodically through the
evidence.

ARREAGA

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