Helicopter crashes into building in Panama, kills Chile’s top police chief

May 30, 2008

Chilean diplomats said their nation´s top police chief was killed yesterday in a helicopter crash in the Panamanian capital, news reports from Panama City said.A Panamanian air force helicopter crashed into a shopping mall in the capital city yesterday. The number of people killed was still undetermined at the time of this report.But Chile´s Carabineros national police commander, Gen. José Alejandro Bernales, 59, was one of them, the Chilean Foreign Ministry said.Chilean President Michelle Bachelet suspended a tour of northern Chile and is rushing back to Santiago, where flags were lowered to half-staff, the Associated Press reported.The Chileans were in Panama for an anti-terrorism conference, Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro told Reuters.Authorities said the helicopter crashed into the shopping mall in Panama City´s Calidonia neighborhood about 2 p.m. local time, EFE reported.The area was packed with people at the time of the accident, EFE reported, making it difficult for firefighters to reach the building. Police later cleared the scene out of concern the chopper´s fuel tanks might explode.

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