Ex-Nicaraguan minister missing, 3 dead in helicopter crash

(File, AP)
(File, AP)

Managua - A top former political figure is missing and three others dead following a helicopter crash on Tuesday in southern Nicaragua, a National Police official said. Among the dead are two Americans.

Former presidential minister Antonio Lacayo, now a fruit-company executive, has not been located since the early-morning crash, which appeared to have been caused by fog and low visibility, officials said.

Police subdirector Francisco Diaz says the remains of two Americans were found, along with the body of pilot Francisco Lemus.

One victim was identified as James S Horrisberger, a Florida-based executive and member of that state's citrus commission. He was a fruit and juice procurement director for Coca-Cola Company's global juice business, according to the commission website. The other American's identity was not confirmed, but he was said to be another citrus executive, according to local media in Florida.

Lacayo, aged 67, is the son-in-law of former Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro and served in her Cabinet. He is chief executive of San Juan Fruit and TicoFrut.

The Bell 206 I-4 helicopter with four people aboard was traveling from San Carlos, Rio San Juan, to Managua when it crashed. The army and air force were continuing an active search, said Carlos Salazar, director of the Civil Aeronautics Institute.

Government spokesperson and first lady Rosario Murillo called the news shocking and said along with other officials that Lacayo contributed greatly to the country's peace and development in the wake of the Sandinista revolution and the following Contra war.

"We believe that the contribution of Tonio in his work as minister of the presidency and then as an entrepreneur in this country has been important to the culture of understanding and peace," she said.

Lacayo was minister of the presidency between 1990 and 1997, when his mother-in-law led the 14-party National Opposition Union to defeat Daniel Ortega and end 10 years of Sandinista government. Ortega went on to regain the presidency in 2007, which he continues to hold today.

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