Venezuela: Survivors, helicopter not found after crash despite reports

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Updated Jan. 6, 2017 at 9:03 AM
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CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A Venezuelan official said the search for an army helicopter is ongoing despite reports victims were rescued after a crash in the Amazonas state a week ago.

Venezuelan Communications Ministry official Ernesto Villegas said the search for the helicopter "continues intensely," citing military authorities. Villegas' comments follow unconfirmed reports that said the helicopter was found and that at least five of 13 people who were aboard the Russian-made Mi-17 were rescued.

"Venezuela is united in prayer and respect for life. It is not a time of lightness from the media and politicians," Villegas said in a statement Thursday. "Let's wait with maximum responsibility for the official information given by Ministry of Defense."

The helicopter carried five army members, four indigenous civilians and four helicopter crew members. The helicopter, which also carried nearly 4,000 pounds of food and supplies, crashed Dec. 30 amid bad weather, which has hampered search efforts.

Some relatives of the helicopter passengers said they were told victims were found alive and taken to Puerto Ayacucho, the capital of Amazonas, El Nacional reported.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pledged to increase resources dedicated to finding the crash victims. It is unclear how Venezuelan officials determined the helicopter crashed, as communications with the craft were cut off during flight and no wreckage has been found.

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