Border Patrol drone crashes in southern Arizona


The Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. — An unmanned aerial drone used to help Border Patrol agents find smugglers and illegal immigrants crossing the border crashed in southern Arizona, authorities said.

Operators lost contact with the $6.5 million (euro5.23 million) Predator B drone early Tuesday morning. A government helicopter found the crash site about three hours later, said Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington.

Friel said officials didn't know the extent of the damage done to the drone. The cause of the crash also remained under investigation.

No one was injured and no property on the ground was damaged, he said.

The crash was also reported by residents from the Tubac area, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Tucson, who were looking for the source of an explosion they heard in the early morning hours, said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada.

"They called it a downed aircraft. That immediately raised our concern," said Estrada. "It turned out that it wasn't, fortunately."

The drone had logged about 900 flight hours in southern Arizona since October, the start of the federal fiscal year, and was credited with helping in the apprehension of nearly 1,800 illegal immigrants and the seizure of about 8,200 pounds (3,720 kilograms) of marijuana, Friel said.

The agency was already scheduled to get a second drone in August.

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