Spanish customs helicopter crashes in drug traffickers chase


On the night between July 11 and 12, 2021, a patroller of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera, the Spanish Customs Surveillance Service, detected a speedboat leaving the Moroccan coast in a hurry towards the southern coast of Spain. 

Suspecting that it could be a go-fast boat, whose goal is to smuggle drugs into Europe, the customs sent a Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin 2 helicopter to intercept it. Like the rest of the customs aircraft fleet, the helicopter registered as EC-JDQ was operated by the private company Eliance. Onboard were two pilots, and an operator in charge of tracking the target using a night-vision camera.

For an unknown reason, the helicopter, which was flying at low altitude to stay hidden from the traffickers, crashed into the sea off Sotogrande beach, northeast of Gibraltar. The two pilots managed to escape the wreckage by themselves, but the operator remained stuck and had to be helped out by his colleagues. A customs vessel retrieved the three men. Unfortunately, the operator entered cardiorespiratory arrest as he reached the coast, and could not be resuscitated.

The wreckage of the helicopter was recovered and taken back to land for investigation the day of the incident. The flight data recorders were retrieved.

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