SANTIAGO – A relative of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was piloting the helicopter that went missing in northern Chile with three other people on board, officials at the presidential residence of La Moneda reported Wednesday.
The helicopter pilot was identified as Pedro Pablo Aldunate Arriola, the husband of Maria Isabel Bachelet, a cousin of the president.
The chopper – which was being used to conduct rescue operations in Chile’s Atacama region after heavy rains and flooding killed almost two dozen people and caused significant damage last week – has been missing since Tuesday night.
The other three people on board the aircraft were not identified by La Moneda.
The Bell 206 belonging to a private company contracted by the firm Aguas Chañar flew over the Alto del Carmen sector some 800 km (500 mi.) north of Santiago, sources said.
Citing military authorities in the region, so far the chopper’s emergency beacon has not been activated, the head of the Atacama Exception Zone, Marcelo Urrutia, told TVN television.
The rains and flooding that last week affected the Chilean regions of Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo have so far caused 23 deaths and 22,381 people to suffer property damage, not to mention 57 people who are missing, according to the latest tally by the National Emergency Office, or Onemi.