SANTIAGO – The wreckage of a helicopter that went missing earlier this week in Chile’s northern Atacama region was found with all four occupants dead, including the husband of a cousin of President Michelle Bachelet, authorities said Thursday.
“Regrettably, all the occupants of the aircraft are dead,” said the Chilean air force in a communique issued after a patrol of commandos reached the crash site of the Bell 206.
“The causes that resulted in the accident are being investigated by the appropriate judicial and aviation entities,” added the text of the press release.
The helicopter crashed in a mountainous sector near the town of Diego de Almagro and the El Salvador mine, owned by the Codelco copper mining corporation, and it was officials of the state-run company that first spotted the wreckage about 8 a.m. on Thursday.
The helicopter was piloted by Pedro Pablo Aldunate Arriola, the 62-year-old husband of one of Bachelet’s cousins, and he was accompanied by three engineers who were tasked with verifying the damage caused by recent heavy rains and flooding to installations owned by the Aguas Chañar company in the Inca de Oro sector of Diego de Almagro.
The regions of Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo last week were affected by heavy rains that caused 17 landslides that hit towns, roads and other infrastructure, killing at least 24 people, and affecting 29,661 others, not to mention the 69 people who are missing in the region.
Of the people affected, 3,995 are being housed in shelters, while 2,071 homes were destroyed and 6,254 suffered significant damage, according to the latest report by the Onemi emergency management office.