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Mexico rules out bomb, failed engine in jet crash

Date: 11/7/2008

Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexican experts say they have ruled out a bomb or engine failure as the cause of a plane crash that killed Mexico’s interior secretary.

The probe into the cause of Tuesday’s crash continues, but officials of Mexico’s Transportation Department said the findings reinforced their initial opinion that no foul play was involved.

“This reinforced the hypothesis that the crash was an accident,” said Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez.

Tellez told a news conference on Friday that all parts of the plane necessary for flight had been found at the crash scene, proving that none had been lost in flight.

Investigators from the federal Attorney General’s Office also said chemical tests revealed no trace of explosives.

From the start, authorities said it appeared to be an accident, but recent attacks on police officials by Mexico’s increasingly violent drug cartels led many here to speculate the crash had been an attack.

The violence has surged during a 2-year-old army and police offensive to wrest control from drug cartels.

Five people on the ground and nine people on the plane were killed in Tuesday’s crash, including Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino and former anti-drug prosecutor Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos.

The 37-year-old Mourino, one of President Felipe Calderon’s closest confidants, was Mexico’s equivalent of vice president and domestic security chief. Santiago Vasconcelos had been the target of at least one previous assassination plot.

The crash occurred in clear weather, and in their last recorded radio conversation, the plane’s flight crew calmly discussed radio frequencies and speed with controllers. The tape went silent just as radar lost the plane’s altitude reading.

Two flight recorders from the Learjet 45 have been sent to the U.S. for examination. Tellez has said experts would need at least a week to analyze the plane’s voice and data recorders for clues to what went wrong.

Experts from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority are in Mexico helping with the investigation.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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