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Mar 11, 2020

Did Major Ramirez Make the Decision to Press on Despite Poor Weather Conditions?

Adran Ramirez

The twenty-three-page report outlines concerns as it relates to the operation of the helicopter in the mission on February twenty-seventh.  The use of cell-phone to communicate by WhatsApp messages and the poor weather conditions to fly are all considered factors in what may have caused the accident.  The Ministry of National Security and the Belize Defense Force say that use of cell-phone is not uncommon and according to the Honduran report, the helicopter was not equipped with radio communication.  The ministry says that the Commander of the Air Wing, Major Adran Ramirez made the call to go out, despite reportedly being told about poor weather conditions. Here’s more from the report with Andrea Polanco.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

According to the Ministry of National Security, on the morning of February twenty-seventh, the day of the operation off the Coastal Road, Commander of the Belize Defence Force Steven Ortega conditionally approved the operation, expressing concerns about conditions of the weather and other factors. The decision to fly that morning, according to the Minister of National Security was that of the commander of the airwing and co-pilot on the mission Major Adran Ramirez.


Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security [File: March 10th, 2020]

“At around 2:12 a.m., Major General Ortega and asked him if the mission is a go. At 2:18 a.m., General Ortega calls JIOC to get a briefing on the mission and repeats his conditional approval as he explains to JIOC that it would be up to Major Ramirez to finally determine if they can fly the helicopter based on the weather and other factors.   At 2:22 a.m., General Ortega calls Major Ramirez and tells him that the mission is a go, provided that he Major Ramirez is satisfied that the proper conditions exist in order to safely fly and that in his, General Ortega’s view; the weather will not clear up until about five a.m.  At around 3:17 a.m., Major Ramirez texted General Ortega and said, “Sir, wedda hold up. We’ll depart. Major Ramirez had total discretion to refuse the mission if he believed that weather conditions were not favourable and whatsapp messages couldn’t be communicated. At any time, it is universally accepted within the military and especially when it comes to flights from the airwing, that even if he needed to communicate but couldn’t communicate, he could turn back and the mission.


Another limitation noted in the report was that the Airwing doesn’t have night vision goggles equipment. The document states, “At the time of the take off there was no natural lighting to make a flight without sight glasses, in this case, night-vision goggles. The crew was not using any NVG equipment to perform this mission because the B.D.F. airwing doesn’t own any.”   The analysis of the helicopter, according to the Honduran Air Force Accident Prevention and Investigation Board, shows that it was in working condition. As it relates to the condition of the UH-1H Helicopter, the report says that, “its maintenance reports updated to the date of the accident.” Instruments found show that it was in normal operating range.  The report concluded that the airworthiness of the aircraft was not a factor in the accident.



“Was there any previous mechanical failure that was brought to your attention in relation to that helicopter?”


Steven Ortega

Brig. Gen. Steven Ortega, Commander of the B.D.F [File; March 10th, 2020]

“Previous? The engineers do checks and whenever there are issues, we repair and fix them.”



“So, to your knowledge that helicopter was flying just fine?”


Brig. Gen. Steven Ortega

“Yes. It was excellent; it was in excellent condition.”


They also noted that the engine will be sent to manufacturer for a more detailed study of its operation. The report states that four piece of the aircraft were sent to ‘forensic medicine’ for their respective ballistic analysis, “since there are perforations that due to the type of mission are suspected of being caused by a firearm. The results show that there was no firearm impact on the air frame.” According to the report, an analysis of the wreckage, based on the damage, “this caused the instantaneous death of the crew, corroborated by the autopsy”. It goes on to say that “people aboard the aircraft died from the multiple injuries caused during the accident.” So, this report concludes that the probable causes of the accident were the human factor as a result of limited visibility without the gears of NVG in adverse weather conditions and use of cell-phone onboard the aircraft during that time. So, can anyone be held responsible? Minister of National Security Michael Peyrefitte says that is left to be seen, as there are other elements of the investigation that are ongoing



“Is there anything actionable at this point against anyone for dereliction of duty?”


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte

“Not at this point until we conclude that aspect of the investigation, remember what we’re talking about right now preliminarily is just the actual helicopter itself and the forensics and ballistics. There is another investigation going on as it relates to how we should, how things should have worked out internally Captain Bennett is currently working on that and that aspect of the investigation has not yet concluded. But I can assure you, I can assure you that if anyone was found to be in dereliction of duty they would be full consequences to be paid.”


Report for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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