Confusion Blamed For Peru Crash
Veronica "Roni" Bowers, a 35-year-old missionary, and her 7-month-old daughter Charity were killed on April 20 when their plane which also carried a Bower's husband and son and a pilot was mistaken for a drug courier by a Peruvian air force working with a CIA-sponsored surveillance team.
The government also released dramatic of the incident, taken by the CIA surviellance aircraft, showing the final seconds before the American missionary plane was shot down over the Peruvian jungle.
The United States has suspended drug surveillance flights since the downing. The report did not address whether flights should be resumed or recommend changes in policy; those issues will be part of a follow-up report being prepared by Morris Busby, a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia.
Among the examples cited:
- The Peruvian on the surveillance plane didn't understand the American pilot when he suggested they try to get the Cessna to land before firing weapons.
- The Americans weren't immediately aware when the Peruvians identified the registration number of the airplane something that would have allowed them to identify the plane's owners.
- About a minute before the shooting, the U.S. pilot tried to tell the Peruvian on board that the Cessna had contacted the control tower for the first time. But the Peruvian, who was talking to the fighter plane, didn't understand the message because of communications congestion.
- In the 15 minutes leading up to the shooting, attempts by the Americans to communicate with the Peruvian "were not understood because of the stressful situation and the language problems prevailing on board," the report said.
The report did not directly assign blame but said neither nation had been following the full set of procedures developed by the two governments in 1994 to avoid such inadvertent downings.
The missionary group, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, has said pilot Kevin Donaldson was following customary practice in the area by calling in his flight plan as he came within radio range of the tower.
The missionary group initially insisted a flight plan was filed ahead of time. An airport manager says one was filed in-flight.
The report also noted that he was following the winding course of the Amazon River in case he needed to make an emergency landing.
The report said the Peruvian jet had fired warning shots, but they were never seen by Donaldson. To maintain the low speed needed to follow the Cessna, the jet was putting its nose up, so the shots would have passed above the missionary plane and out of Donaldson's view.
Under current agreements, Peru can use U.S. data to attack a plane only if it is flying without a flight plan, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.
Donaldson, who was wounded in the shooting, claims he never heard a radio warning or saw warning shots before the jet shot the plane down. Relatives of the missionaries said the aircraft received clearance to land moments before the shooting.
Officials say there is no evidence the pilot of the Peruvian jet waggled his wings or made hand signals to communicae with Donaldson. The jet pilot also apparently neglected to fire any warning shots.
According to engagement rules, Peruvian fighters must first try to make radio contact and visually signal a suspect aircraft to land for inspection before opening fire. If the pilot balks, warning shots must be fired.
After being hit by the gunfire, the plane crash-landed in the Amazon River near the jungle town of Huanta, 625 miles northeast of Lima.
U.S. officials have said the incident was a departure from what they regard as a highly professional performance by the Peruvians in the anti-drug program.
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