HOUSTON — The bodies of an American missionary and her 7-month-old daughter, killed when their plane was shot down by Peru's air force, were returned to the United States early Tuesday.

Continental Airlines Flight 1650 arrived about 6:30 a.m. from Lima, Peru. On board were the remains of Veronica "Roni" Bowers, 35, and her adopted daughter, Charity.

The flight had departed from Peru about midnight, said a spokesman for Houston-based Continental.

The victims' bodies were scheduled to be flown later to Michigan for funeral services set for Friday. Relatives of the victims at Houston's Intercontinental Airport declined to comment.

Military officials said the Peruvian air force fired on the victims' pontoon plane last Friday after mistaking it for a drug-smuggling flight. Investigators said Bowers and the child, who was on her lap, were killed by a single bullet.

Bowers' husband, Jim Bowers, and the couple's 6-year-old son, Cory, survived the crash. They flew to Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday afternoon to visit Bowers' mother and brother Dan.

"They're hurting," Dan Bowers said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. "Jim is hurting, but he is emotionally strong. His faith has sustained him."

The pilot, Kevin Donaldson was in fair condition Tuesday at Reading hospital in West Reading, Pa., after undergoing surgery on both legs. He said he felt lucky to be alive after landing in the Amazon River.

"It was scary and it's something that will haunt me for a long time," he said.

Peru's air force denied suggestions from the White House on Monday that Peru did not follow proper procedures to identify the aircraft before opening fire.

"The only thing I can tell you is that the air force followed the procedures," said air force spokesman Cmdr. Rommel Roca. "It regrets this lamentable accident in which two people died."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the U.S. crew of a CIA-operated surveillance aircraft tracking the missionary plane "did its best to make certain that all the rules were followed."

In dispute is whether a flight plan was filed before Donaldson set out from Iquitos to Islandia, a Peruvian jungle town. The missionaries' organization, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism in New Cumberland, Pa., posted a copy of the document on its Web page.


WEB SITE: www.abwe.org/family/flight-plan.htm