Landing in the Forest
Drug Plane Crashes on Utila, Three Men Found Floating near the Island

June 1st, 2009
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

The wreckage of the drug plane.

The wreckage of the drug plane.

It seems like the only way police can catch a drug trafficker on Utila is if he ends up with a broken leg and hanging off a tree, or floating helplessly at sea. In fact on May 10 at least two, or possibly five drug traffickers were picked up in just such circumstances.

On January 26, a plane with 1,500 kilos of cocaine and a boat were found at Utila’s landing strip, but not a single arrest was made. The May 10 drug bust and crash created a new record on Utila, with 1,680 kilos of cocaine found and later destroyed by police.

On May 10, around 9:30 pm a two-prop drug plane begun circling Utila for three-and-a-half hours. “Many people were scared. We thought the plane would crash in the Camponado [a working class neighborhood on Utila],” said Julia Keller, Utila resident. All this flying activity brought attention of the US Air Force, who dispatched a plane to investigate the low flying aircraft.

The plane eventually crashed in the brush near the Utila landing strip. The plane was ripped apart by the brush and trees during the landing creating a large clearing in its path. All three crew members were Columbian: pilot Jeison Fernando, co-pilot Luis Garcia, and Bejarana Hernandez who died during the crash.

In a likely related incident, a few hours before the plane crash, at 2:30 PM, Kader Urbina, 27, a Utila police agent was found by the Utila Princess ferry boat floating several miles off the coast of Utila holding on to a plastic drum. The police officer said he was coming from Roatan with two other men when their boat overturned.

The following day a search boat found two other men holding onto a barely floating overturned boat. The men stated that they were coming from La Ceiba with a crew of five when their boat capsized. Tegucigalpa police authorities suspect that the boat was on route to supply the drug plane with fuel and coordinate its landing on the Utila landing strip. When the plane found no one to coordinate the landing, it circled the populated area of the island and eventually crashed.

Utila residents report suspicious planes circling and landing on the island several times a week. The landing strip area is virtually off-limits to the island residents who don’t want to run the risk of being caught in a middle of a drug deal.

Utila residents are now used to night and even daytime operations by the drug traffickers transferring cocaine bundles from planes to boats. The Honduran Navy base due to open next to Guanaja airport is likely to make Guanaja airport off-limits to drug traffickers and put Utila as an even more desirable place for drug transfer operations. [/private]

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