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Guatemala army chief of staff dies in helicopter crash

A photo taken on September 29, 2013, shows the Guatemalan army chief of Staff Rudy Ortiz, who died when a helicopter crashed in a mountainous region
A photo taken on September 29, 2013, shows the Guatemalan army chief of Staff Rudy Ortiz, who died when a helicopter crashed in a mountainous region

Guatemalan army chief of staff Rudy Ortiz and four other military officers died Wednesday when their helicopter crashed in a mountainous region where drug traffickers operate, the government said.

The crash occurred in the Huehuetenango department on the Mexican border as the officers carried out a routine inspection of the area, where unrest has also erupted over hydroelectric dams and mining projects, said Defense Minister Manuel Lopez.

The minister said bad weather had prevented Ortiz and the officers -- another general and three colonels -- from touching down at the base where they had planned to land.

The crash happened as they flew to another base in the area.

"The cause is unknown," Lopez said.

Rescue workers were still trying to reach the area, which was difficult to access.

President Otto Perez expressed his "deep condolences" to the family and the army on Twitter.

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