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US experts believe Mexico plane crash was accident

Date: 11/13/2008

Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ U.S. investigators have found no evidence of foul play in a mysterious plane crash that killed Mexico’s second-most powerful official, the American ambassador said Wednesday.

U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board experts say that, so far, nothing in the flight data recorder, cockpit recorder or other evidence indicates that “sabotage or criminal activity caused the crash,” Tony Garza said in a statement.

“The preliminary evidence indicates the crash was a tragic accident,” he added.

The NTSB team has been in Mexico for a week to help investigate the Nov. 4 crash that killed Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino, who was the equivalent of Mexico’s vice president and the closest confidant of President Felipe Calderon.

Five people on the ground and nine people on the plane were killed when the Learjet 45 suddenly plunged into an upscale Mexico City neighborhood. Also among those on board was former anti-drug prosecutor Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos.

From the start, Mexican investigators have said the crash appeared to be an accident. They ruled out a bomb last week, saying no trace of explosives was found at the crash scene.

Despite the lack of evidence, many Mexicans immediately suspected the crash was another attack by drug cartels, which have increasingly targeted security officials. Vasconcelos had been the target of at least one previous assassination plot.

Garza said the NTSB investigators would leave Mexico on Thursday but the agency would continue to help examine evidence and run simulations to determine what happened.

He gave no indication of whether investigators were close to determining the cause, saying only that “we must now all await the final conclusions” of Mexican aviation officials.

Mexican officials have offered a wide range of possibilities, from human error to turbulence from another plane. They ruled out engine failure last week.

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.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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