IQUITOS, Peru -- A U.S. surveillance plane monitored the Peruvian air force's downing of a plane carrying American missionaries mistaken for drug smugglers, a U.S. Embassy official said Saturday. A woman and her infant daughter from Michigan were killed in the shooting and crash.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to say whether the U.S. aircraft provided the position of the single-engine floater plane. But he said U.S. tracking planes routinely pass along information to Peruvian authorities about suspicious aircraft in the northern jungle region bordering Colombia and Brazil, a common route for cocaine trafficking.
"A U.S. government tracking aircraft was in the area in support of the Peruvian intercept mission," he said in Lima. "As part of an agreement between the United States and Peru, the United States provides tracking information on planes suspected of smuggling illegal drugs in the region to the Peruvian air force."
The statement came after one of the three survivors reportedly said that an American aircraft was flying nearby at the time the Peruvian jet shot down the missionaries' plane Friday morning over the Amazon River.
Peru's air force issued a statement early Saturday confirming that the missionaries' plane was shot down after it was detected at 10:05 a.m. local time by "an air space surveillance and control system" run jointly by Peru and the United States.
The statement said the plane entered Peruvian air space from Brazil without filing a flight plan and that it was fired on after the pilot failed to respond to "international procedures of identification and interception."
The survivors told of how the pilot, a veteran, second-generation missionary, was shot in the leg during the flight. He then lost control of the flaming, single-engine plane before managing to guide it into the river, where the survivors floated on the craft's pontoons for a half-hour before being rescued by local villagers.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.