National Guard ends probe into PR helicopter crash

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 9:27 PM

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Military authorities on Wednesday ended an investigation into a crash of a Puerto Rico National Guard helicopter that killed six people, saying they could not determine what caused the December accident.

A statement from the National Guard discarded any mechanical or weather causes for the crash. But it said a pilot of the UH-72 Lakota possibly became disoriented, losing his view of the horizon and maneuvering an ill-fated turn in rainy conditions.

The helicopter crashed on the night of Dec. 20 as it headed toward an outlying island to oversee a drug raid. Two other helicopters on the same mission encountered heavy rain but reported no problems.

Two of the passengers were prosecutors with the local justice department and the other four were National Guard soldiers, three of them crew members.

Puerto Rico National Guard Gen. Antonio Vicens said he was certain there will never be certainty about what caused the tragic accident.

"Nevertheless, I want to make clear that each one that fell that night will be remembered by their commitment and dedication to the good of our country and the nation," Vicens said.

Gov. Luis Fortuno declared seven days of mourning after the crash and ordered all flags to fly at half staff.

© 2011 The Associated Press