Alexa

Ecuadorean defense minister, daughter die in helicopter crash

Ecuadorean defense minister, daughter die in helicopter crash

Ecuador's president said Thursday he had ordered an exhaustive investigation into the collision of two army helicopters that killed the country's first female defense minister, her daughter and five members of the military.
President Rafael Correa flew to an army base near the site of Wednesday's crash that shook the government just 10 days after Correa's inauguration.
"It appears to have been an unfortunate accident but so that there is no doubt" the government has formed a special commission to oversee the investigation, Correa told reporters in the port city of Manta.
The commission will include outside experts from the makers of the French-designed Gazelle helicopters involved the crash as well from Chile's air force.
Defense Minister Guadalupe Larriva, 50 and her 17-year-old daughter Claudia Avila were killed when two helicopters collided during maneuvers held to mark the 53rd anniversary of army aviation in Ecuador at base near Manta. A colonel, three captains and a lieutenant also died in the crash.
In a televised interview, Vice President Lenin Moreno said the helicopters were performing a night flight test "and in a bad maneuver it appears that the blades collided and the helicopters fell to the ground."
No top ranking commanders were on board the helicopters, Moreno said.
Larriva was Ecuador's first female defense chief and the first to have never served in the military.
In a short statement aired on Canal 1, Correa told "the Ecuadorean people to pray for Guadalupe, her daughter, the pilots, for her family members, for the government of Ecuador."
Messages of condolences poured in from countries around the region and the United States. In comments to a Quito television station, U.S. Embassy spokesman Aaron Sherinian expressed "heartfelt sorrow to Ecuadorean friends for this tragic, sad situation."
No replacement was immediately named.
Correa appointed seven women to his 17-member Cabinet, saying he wanted to promote gender equality in his South American nation.
Larriva shook off concerns about resistance from the military. Before taking office, the then-Socialist Party president said she expected more "curiosity" than animosity from Ecuador's military brass "over whether a woman can lead in this role."
Enrique Ayala, an academic who is a leader of the small Socialist Party and was a close friend of Larriva, said she had told him that she felt confortable in the job and had received the full cooperation of the military.
A teacher by vocation, Larriva rose through her party's ranks and served in congress.
She is survived by a daughter and son. Her husband Rodrigo Avila died eight years ago.