Mexican military helicopter crashes at sea, leaving 3 Navy personnel dead and 2 missing

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Navy said Wednesday that one of its helicopters crashed into the Pacific shortly after taking off from the deck of a patrol ship, leaving three navy personnel dead and two more missing.

The Navy said searches continued for those still missing after Wednesday’s accident, and the possible causes of the crash were under investigation. Three of the eight people aboard the helicopter were rescued alive and have been taken to land for treatment, where their condition was listed as “stable.”

Two of the dead were female navy service members.

The Eurocopter Panther helicopter took off from a long-distance ocean patrol ship about 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) southwest of the Pacific coast port of Lazaro Cardenas. Mexico’s Navy frequently patrols that area to detect clandestine sea-borne cocaine shipments.

It marks the second military mishap within the space of about two weeks in Mexico that have a left a total of about a dozen service members dead.

On Monday, Mexico’s president acknowledged that seven National Guard recruits and military personnel drowned in an army training accident in February.

The drownings on Feb. 20 raised questions about President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s insistence that guard members receive military training and be under army command, despite the fact they do civilian law enforcement work.

López Obrador said a total of 11 recruits had been swept away by the waves in that accident and four survived. The drownings occurred on a beach near a military base in Ensenada, Baja California.

Videos posted by a support group of the victims’ relatives showed dozens of cadets walking into the rough surf with full uniforms on. Relatives have questioned why the recruits were ordered into the Pacific when there were local weather alerts about rough seas and high waves at the time.

The Mexican armed forces have a history of helicopter crashes. In 2022, a military helicopter crashed in the northern state of Sinaloa, killing 14 marines. Investigators later said the chopper had run out of fuel.