The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said on Monday that searchers had found the bodies of five agents who were aboard an anti-drug plane that crashed on Saturday in the Upper Huallaga Valley, where most of the world's cocaine is produced.
The twin-engined jet, which was carrying two pilots and three enforcement agents, was on a routine reconnaissance mission when it went down.The Peruvian air force located the wreckage of the plane in the thick jungle of the Andean foothills on Sunday afternoon, but rescue crews did not reach the site until Monday afternoon because of rugged terrain and poor weather, American officials here said.
There was wide speculation here that the plane had been shot down by drug traffickers or leftist guerrillas who operate in the region and have attacked an air base in Santa Lucia where the DEA maintains its planes.
But drug officials said on Monday that a preliminary examination of the wreckage indicated that the plane had not been fired upon. While some suggested that the plane had mechanical problems, others said that that was highly unlikely because the surveillance planes undergo rigorous scrutiny before they undertake a mission.
Bill Ruzzamenti, an agency spokesman in Washington, said that the plane's black box, which records flight information, had been recovered.