Ecuador's defence minister killed in helicopter crash


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday January 24, 2007

Quito- Ecuador's Defence Minister Guadalupe Larriva has been killed in a crash that involved two military helicopters, government officials reported late Wednesday. The two helicopters collided mid-air near the city of Manta on the Pacific coast, also killing at least five high-level officers of the Ecuadorian military as well as Larriva's 17-year-old daughter.

The helicopters exploded immediately after colliding, reported TV broadcaster Canal UN. Eyewitnesses reported several mutilated and burned corpses at the accident scene.

Larriva, 50, took office on January 15 and was the first woman to serve as Ecuador's defence minister. A former university geography professor and member of parliament, she was one of only a few civilians to lead Ecuador's 176-year-old military.

President Rafael Correa expressed sorrow over the accident after travelling to the crash site and asked the country to "pray for the soul of Guadalupe, her daughter, her family and the government of Ecuador."

In her last TV interview Larriva said Wednesday that she had been well received as defence minister.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency