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LIMA, PERU — Five Americans were among the seven killed in a helicopter crash in central Peru, officials said.
The accident occurred shortly after the helicopter took off from the airport on Monday in Pucallpa, the capital of the Ucayali region within the Coronel Portillo Province, Ucayali's Regional Emergency Operation Center chief, Marco Lozano, confirmed on Tuesday.
The VB-234 helicopter was carrying a total of seven people when it quickly lost communication with the airport's control tower, as it went crashing down. Emergency teams rushed to the scene and later found the bodies, three of which were located further away from the crash site without signs of being burnt. Authorities believe they might have jumped out of the aircraft before the crash.
The victims, who were were working for Columbia Helicopters Peru S.A.C., which has its base in Portland, Oregon, were supporting in petroleum exploration operations. The company's president, Michael Fahey, also confirmed the accident.
"This is a very sad day for Columbia Helicopters," said Fahey. “We may operate globally, but we are still very much a family. The loss of our employees hurts deeply, and I knew most of these men personally. Our employees are grieving, and we are praying for the family members of the friends we lost."
The victims were identified as command pilot Dann Immel from Gig Harbor, Washington, Igor Castillo, copilot from Peru, maintenance crew chief Edwin Cordova from Melbourne Florida, aircraft mechanic Luis Ramos from Peru, aircraft mechanic Jamie Picket from Clarksville Tennessee, load manager Leon Bradford from Santaquin, Utah, and load manager Darrel Birkes, from Portland and resident of Peru.
The reason of the accident was still under investigation, but Fahey also stated that Columbia Helicopters deployed a management investigation team to take part in the probe carried out by Peruvian authorities.