Mexico’s Puebla governor Martha Erika Alonso dies in helicopter crash

Aerial view of the scene of the crash in Puebla state, Mexico. Photo: 24 December 2018Image copyright
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The aircraft crashed 10 minutes after take-off

A Mexican governor who was sworn in earlier this month and her senator husband have died in a helicopter crash in the central state of Puebla.

The aircraft carrying Puebla Gov Martha Erika Alonso and Sen Rafael Moreno Valle came down shortly after it took off.

The two pilots were killed. Reports say a third passenger also died.

Officials say the helicopter may have suffered an unspecified failure. An investigation has been opened.

Ms Alonso, 45, had been sworn in on 14 December as Puebla’s first female governor, after hotly contested polls.

Mr Moreno, 50, had served as Puebla’s governor between 2011 and 2017.

What do we know about the crash?

The privately-owned Agusta helicopter bound to Mexico City lost contact with air traffic control and crashed 10 minutes after take-off, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said.

The accident happened on Monday at 14:50 local time (20:50 GMT) in the area of Santa María Coronango, near the state capital of Puebla, Mexico’s second-largest city.

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Officials say they believe the helicopter may have suffered an unspecified failure

“At this point, there’s no evidence that could lead us to conclude that the cause was not related to how the [helicopter] was functioning,” Mr Durazo told journalists.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said an investigation would be launched to establish “the truth” about what caused the crash.

In a tweet (in Spanish), he expressed “deepest condolences” to the relatives of the two politicians.

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The accident comes after a number of high-profile deaths in helicopter crashes over the years in Mexico, including Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora in 2011, the BBC’s Will Grant reports.

Earlier this year, 13 people died when a minister’s helicopter crashed into a crowd, although the minister himself survived, our correspondent says.

Who are the victims?

Ms Alonso was a member of the centre-right PAN party. In elections in July, she narrowly beat Manuel Barbosa, President López Obrador’s favoured candidate for the governorship of one of Mexico’s most populous states.

Puebla’s parliament will now have to appoint an interim governor until new elections are held.

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Martha Erika Alonso was sworn in as Puebla’s governor 10 days before the crash

President López Obrador’s leftist Morena party had alleged widespread irregularities and fraud in the poll, and the final results had to be validated by an electoral tribunal.

Mr Barbosa said the deaths were a “tragedy that no-one wishes to anyone”, adding: “I am shocked and in mourning. My sympathies to their loved ones. This is not the time to make any speculation.”

Rafael Moreno Valle was a member of the PAN in the Senate. Some opposition politicians called for an independent investigation into the crash.

The pilots have been identified as Capt Roberto Cope and First Officer Marco Antonio Tavera.

It is presumed that a fifth passenger was on board, but no details have been released.