Aircraft crashes in Panama, kills Chilean police chief

A helicopter crashed into a building in a busy neighbourhood of Panama City, killing at least 11 people, including the Chilean federal police chief, according to Panama authorities.



A helicopter crashed into a building in a busy central district of Panama City on Thursday, killing at least 11 people including Chile's federal police chief.


Five Panamanians and six Chileans were killed when the decades-old helicopter slammed into a store and exploded, Panama's Justice Minister Daniel Delgado told a news conference.


Only one person on the helicopter -- a Panamanian -- survived. He is in the hospital in stable condition, Delgado said.


Emergency workers continued to search through the smoldering rubble and officials said the body count was likely to rise significantly.


Body parts were strewn on the ground around the burning household-goods store and riot police held back crowds of people who had flocked to watch the scene.


Police chief Gen. Jose Alejandro Bernales, identified by the Chilean Foreign Ministry, was one of four senior Chilean security personnel traveling in the helicopter when it crashed and broke in half, the tail end landing on top of a nearby office building.


The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. A policeman identified the helicopter as an aging model from the late 1960s.


The Chileans were in Panama for an anti-terrorism conference, Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro told Reuters at the scene.


Wives of two Chilean officials who were with the group were also killed, said officials in Chile.


Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she had spoken with her Panamanian counterpart, President Martin Torrijos, about the accident and announced three days of national mourning.

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