One dead after Costa helicopter chase ends in disaster

The helicopter was refloated on Sunday afternoon.
The helicopter was refloated on Sunday afternoon. / SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO
  • The Customs surveillance aircraft was pursuing an alleged drug-trafficking boat in the Strait of Gibraltar when the accident happened

The fight against drug trafficking along the south coast of Spain claimed the life of an member of the Customs Surveillance Service at the weekend.

José Luis Domínguez Iborra, from Algeciras, died in a helicopter accident which happened while the aircraft was following a suspected drug-trafficking boat in the Strait of Gibraltar, thirty miles east of Sotogrande, and close to the border between Cadiz and Malaga provinces.

The customs official who lost his life served as an aerial observer, and was accompanied by the pilot and co-pilot, who survived the accident. The flight crew managed to rescue the customs agent from the helicopter and revive him. However, when he reached land, the man's heart stopped again. More resuscitation manoeuvres were attempted by a mobile intensive care unit in Sotogrande port, but the man did not recover.

According to SUR sources, the reason for the aircraft crashing into the sea during the pursuit, in the early hours of Sunday, is still unknown. The helicopter was giving air support to a patrol boat that was pursuing a suspected drug-trafficking boat.

On Sunday morning, the Salvamento Marítimo coastguard service located the crashed helicopter and it was refloated using inflatable balloons by the Clara Campoamor recovery craft, at around 6.30pm.

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, offered his condolences to the family and friends of the customs official and added, “Thank you to all the security forces and authorities that work every day to protect us from crime.”

The Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, said "it is still premature to venture theories" about the cause of the crash.

The helicopter will be transferred to land and will be analysed to find the cause of the accident.