FONDS-PARISIEN, Haiti – U.N. helicopters on Saturday reached the remote site of plane crash that killed 11 peacekeepers when a surveillance flight slammed into a mountain in Haiti.
All onboard died after the CASA C-212 twin engine turboprop aircraft went down Friday afternoon near the border with the Dominican Republic, about 30 miles from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Two U.N. helicopters were able to land near the site Saturday morning and peacekeepers began the process of bringing bodies back to Port-au-Prince, mission spokesman David Wimhurst said.
The victims were Uruguayan and Jordanian troops serving with the 9,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force that has been in Haiti since a 2004 rebellion ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Six Uruguayan soldiers were killed in the crash, including the pilot and co-pilot, Uruguay's minister of defense told local media.
Wimhurst would not speculate on when results of an investigation into the cause of the crash would become available.
"The investigation will take some time. ... Any air crash requires experts to analyze it," he said.
The mountainous border area between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where Uruguayan plane was flying, is rife with drug and human smuggling.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission, which is expected to be renewed for a sixth year when its mandate expires Oct. 15, has been shifting its focus to the border region in recent years. The international community also has been helping the rebuilding Haitian national police force to strengthen its presence here.
A U.N. statement said the aircraft was on "a regular reconnaissance flight." It was unclear why the plane was doing surveillance near the border or how often such flights take place.
Through a spokesperson, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon extended "his heartfelt condolences to the family members, friends and colleagues of these brave peacekeepers."
With no roads near the crash site, and rescuers initially had to clamber overland to reach it and confirm there were no survivors.
The area is a regular transit point for South American cocaine passing through Haiti and the Dominican Republic on its way to Europe and North America.
Haitian migrants are brought across the porous border, often illegally, to work in Dominican construction, tourism and agriculture.