Survivors Return Home, Family Deny Peru Account

Survivors Return Home, Family Deny Peru Account
Posted by FoM on April 22, 2001 at 20:52:29 PT
By Robert D. McFadden
Source: New York Times
Three survivors of a missionary plane shot down in Peru after being mistaken for drug smugglers returned to the United States yesterday as details of their ordeal in the jungle, and of their years as backwater missionaries, were recounted by colleagues and friends.Officials of their mission vehemently disputed Peruvian accounts of the Friday incident, saying that the plane was easily identifiable by its markings and that its pilot had filed a flight plan and had been in radio contact with an airport where he intended to land. They said the Peruvian military plane had opened fire without warning, killing the missionary's wife and infant daughter.
A pastor in Muskegon, Mich., who had spoken by phone to the missionary, quoted him as saying that after their stricken plane had crashed in a river, the Peruvian fighter swooped in low and strafed the survivors  the missionary, his 6-year-old son and the wounded pilot  as they clung to the burning wreckage.James Bowers, 37, a missionary with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, and his son, Cory, arrived at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina just after noon on a flight from Peru and were met by officials of the New Cumberland, Pa., mission that had sponsored his family's work for the last seven years.Before going into seclusion at the home of his mother, Wilma, Mr. Bowers expressed concern about the bodies of his wife, Veronica, 35, and their 7-month-old-daughter, Charity, who were killed in the attack. The bodies were still awaiting clearance by authorities in Lima, and the family was unable to make funeral plans.In Philadelphia, the pilot of the downed aircraft, Kevin Donaldson, 42, arrived and was met by his wife, Bobbi, and Hank Scheltema, aviation director of the Baptist mission. Mr. Donaldson was taken to Reading General Hospital for surgery. Although shot in both legs, Mr. Donaldson had crash-landed his pontoon plane on the Amazon River, where the survivors clung to its burning, flipped-over wreckage for nearly an hour until rescued by villagers in dugout canoes.The Peruvian Air Force, which expressed regret, said over the weekend that the missionary plane had entered Peruvian airspace unannounced from Brazil and was fired upon after Mr. Donaldson failed to respond to repeated radio requests to identify himself while flying without a flight plan through a region frequented by drug runners.But Phil Bowers, a trained pilot who sat in on his brother's debriefing by military officials in Peru on Saturday, disputed that version. He said that Mr. Donaldson had been in radio contact with the airport at the jungle city of Iquitos, where he intended to land 40 minutes later, and that the Peruvian plane had fired without warning."There was no communication," Phil Bowers told The Associated Press in Iquitos, 625 miles northeast of Lima. He said the Cessna 185 had been dogged by two planes  the Peruvian fighter and an American spotter that had apparently identified Mr. Donaldson's craft as a possible smugglers' flight."It happened very fast," Phil Bowers related. "The planes flew by first, did some swooping, and then came in from behind and started shooting." Even after the Cessna crashed into the river and flipped over, he said, the Peruvian plane continued firing as survivors clung to the wreckage and the pilot of the American surveillance plane looked on."We've got hundreds of witnesses from the shore, Peruvians who were watching from the village of Huanta," Mr. Bowers said. And, referring to the Peruvian pilot, he asked: "Why didn't they call and check the registration? Sounds like a bunch of vigilante hot-shot pilots. Either that or someone higher up ordered the pilots to shoot."In Muskegon, Mich., the Rev. William Rudd, pastor of the Calvary Church, from which Mr. and Mrs. Bowers had been sent on their South American mission in 1994, said he had spoken to Mr. Bowers by phone and recounted details of what he characterized as a murderous unprovoked attack without warning.He quoted Mr. Bowers as saying that the survivors, after the crash, had been surrounded by flames and that, as they splashed water to keep from burning, they were fired upon again by the Peruvian attacker, who swooped in for strafing runs. He said that a single bullet that crashed through the fuselage had apparently killed Mrs. Bowers and the baby. Cory, he said, helped rescue the plane's pilot, who was bleeding badly from his leg wounds.He said Mr. Bowers told him Peruvian officials had initially wanted to take him into custody, but had been dissuaded by American officials.The Rev. E.C. Haskell, director of mission relations for the Baptist association, also dismissed the Peruvian government's allegation that the plane was not identifiable, saying that a photo on the association's web site clearly showed the Cessna's identification numbers  and a dove painted on its side.David Southwell, the association's director of South American ministries, who met Mr. Bowers in Raleigh, insisted that Mr. Donaldson had been in radio contact with Peruvian air officials 15 minutes before the attack. And he called the charge that no flight plan had been filed "absolutely not true," adding, "The flight plan was filed and followed."Mr. Donaldson, who suffered a crushed right leg and injuries of the left calf and was transported on a stretcher, had no immediate comment. But his brother, Gordon Donaldson, an osteopath in Morgantown, Pa., questioned why the Peruvian pilot and American monitors of Peru's drug interdiction efforts had not recognized the missionary plane."There are only four or five civilian airplanes that fly out of the city of Iquitos," Gordon Donaldson told The Associated Press. "His airplane has been down there for 13 years."As American and Peruvian government officials investigated the circumstances surrounding the deaths, and friends and relatives mourned for the mother and daughter, other details of the attack  and portraits of those caught up in it  emerged yesterday.Mr. Haskell said that the Bowers and their two adopted children had taken the journey that ended in tragedy because they wanted to obtain a permanent visa for their infant daughter. To do so, they had to go to a destination that was outside Peru, and the closest was in Colombia.So on Thursday, the family took off with Mr. Donaldson from Iquitos, where the Bowers lived on a houseboat built by their church, and flew 250 miles east to Islandia, a Peruvian town just across the border from Colombia and Brazil. Mr. Haskell said the family had taken a boat across a river to Leticia, Colombia, where they obtained the visa.Mr. Haskell emphasized that, while the family had crossed into Colombia, the missionary plane had never left Peru. "They were never out of Peruvian air space," he said, denying Peru's account that the plane had entered Peruvian airspace from Brazil.The next day, Friday, the family boarded Mr. Donaldson's plane for the trip back to Iquitos and took off. But about 100 miles east of their destination, their plane was intercepted by the Peruvian fighter and shot down.As friends and colleagues recalled yesterday, James and Veronica Bowers for the last seven years had been part of a mission that began in 1939 in northern Peru, bordering Brazil and Colombia, some 800 miles east of the Pacific.There, traveling waterways on their houseboat and sometimes flying in small planes provided and piloted by their mission, they brought their teachings to remote towns and villages in a territory that, in the 1960's, had been part of the mission of Terry and Wilma Bowers, the parents of James Bowers, who was raised in Brazil.Veronica Bowers, known to friends as Roni, grew up in Virginia and decided at the age of 12 that she wanted to be a missionary. After high school, she attended Piedmont Bible College in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she met James Bowers. They were married in 1985.In the late 1980's, Mr. Bowers was in the Army, and he and his wife were stationed for three years in Germany. After his discharge in 1990, they returned to Piedmont Bible College and graduated together in 1993. They then moved to Muskegon, Mich., the hometown of James's mother, and soon became the second generation of his family to become South American missionaries from Calvary Church.They were sent to Peru in 1994 by the Baptist association, founded in 1927, an organization that has 1,300 missionaries in 65 countries who are supported by 8,000 Baptist churches. According to Mrs. Bowers's biographical sketch for the mission, the couple were unable to have children and adopted Cory in 1994, and Charity soon after her birth last Sept. 14.At Calvary Church in Muskegon, which has 1,000 members and supports about 70 missions around the world, worshipers yesterday remembered the Bowers as a family devoted to missionary work. "She wouldn't even date a guy unless they were ready to go off and do missionary work," Kate Sagan, a friend and fellow church member, recalled.Donna Zandstra, Mr. Bowers's cousin, added, "They both were doing exactly what they believed God called them to do." Complete Title: As Survivors Return Home, Family Vehemently Deny Peru's AccountSource: New York Times (NY) Author: Robert D. McFaddenPublished: April 23, 2001Copyright: 2001 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters Website: Forum: Related Articles:Bush Says U.S. Role Was To Provide Information Identified Baptists' Plane as Drug Carrier
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Comment #7 posted by observer on April 24, 2001 at 11:01:53 PT
 Of course (the damage-control spin doctors will tell us), this is a "tragic accident" but the "real blame" for the deaths of these people lies (the propagandists will assure us), with those who "demand drugs". Such treatment, while it unfortunately fell on innocent people this time, is reserved for the demon(ized), the pusher, the narco, those 'who pump poison into the veins of Our Children'. So very predictable . . . :``. . . But in fairness, Americans' own complicity in Bowers' death must be acknowledged. After all, if not for this country's unquenchable thirst for illegal intoxicants, there would be no need for a war on drugs; no need to guard the skies of a remote South American nation. No need for yet another innocent victim to pay the price.''Innocent Victims (Editorial, Apr 24 2001) 
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Comment #6 posted by lookinside on April 23, 2001 at 21:15:54 PT:
dan, that's not paranoia...paranoia involves unlikely orimpossible threats...your guess may be too close to themark..(make sure your front door is locked for awhile)
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Comment #5 posted by Dan Hillman on April 23, 2001 at 10:17:34 PT
Sad but true, schmeff c.
It's practically over already, with the Washington Post printing headlines like "CIA urged caution...".Waddaya wanna bet that this whole thing will be spun like: "well this shows that we need more sophisticated equipment, training and advisors in that area so that a tradgedy like this can't occur again." Call me paranoid, but maybe that was the plan all along.
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Comment #4 posted by observer on April 23, 2001 at 09:42:38 PT
Firing at Survivors (aka 'Dead Men Tell No Tales')
the Peruvian fighter swooped in low and strafed the survivors -- the missionary, his 6-year-old son and the wounded pilot -- as they clung to the burning wreckage. . . . Even after the Cessna crashed into the river and flipped over, he said, the Peruvian plane continued firing as survivors clung to the wreckage and the pilot of the American surveillance [CIA] plane looked on. . . Of course (the damage-control spin doctors will tell us), this is a "tragic accident" but the "real blame" for the deaths of these people lies (the propagandists will assure us), with those who "demand drugs". Such treatment, while it unfortunately fell on innocent people this time, is reserved for the demon(ized), the pusher, the narco, those 'who pump poison into the veins of Our Children'. . . .  Like Nazis, drug warriors like to portray their victims as murders. Nancy Reagan declared, "If you're a casual drug user, you're an accomplice to murder."121  President Bush agreed: "Casual drug use is responsible for the casualties of the drug war. . . . Dabblers in drugs bear responsibility for the blood being spilled."122  . . .  A Partnership for a Drug-Free America ad said that anyone who buys marijuana is responsible for murders of police.125  . . . As with Nazi actions against Jews, drug warrior actions against users are made more palatable through rhetoric portraying victims as nonhuman. "We will not tolerate those who sell drugs and those who use drugs," said President Reagan. "All Americans of good will are determined to stamp out those parasites."127  "We are talking scum here," a drug cop told one reporter, "Air should be illegal if they breathe it."128  "One 'reality'-based crime program (Night Beat, WNYW-TV, 12/92) took us to a police briefing, where the chief of a narcotics unit on camera tells his assembled officers -- not once but twice -- 'Remember, you are dealing with the scum of the earth.'"129  One researcher of police attitudes found that "when confronted with the violence they sometimes inflict [against drug offenders], they justify themselves by asserting that their victims are not really human: 'they're scum,' 'they can't feel pain,' and so forth."130  One official described prisoners under his command: "Those aren't people -- they have to be treated quite differently."131  Such an attitude can be deadly, as demonstrated by the source of that particular description, an SS murderer.(Richard L Miller, Drug Warriors and their Prey, 1996, pgs.23-24) 
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Comment #3 posted by schmeff c. on April 23, 2001 at 09:20:39 PT
D4...I too hope this wakes people up, but I am afraid that the deaths of two people in the jungles of Peru are going to seem small in comparison to the 50,000 children killed by drugs in just the US alone last month (or was that just in the state of NJ?) and the one point seven quadrillion dollars of lost productivity due to drug abuse not to mention the damaged chromosomes endangering the very future of our civilization blah blah blah.....In other words, once the propaganda ministry has spun this story in so many conflicting variations, the American public will not get a "wake-up call", just a confusing mish-mash of misinformation and innuendo that makes the victims look like bumblers who were responsible for bringing on their own misfortunes.
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on April 22, 2001 at 21:58:45 PT
The IF
 IF these innocent people in the Cessna,had all died in the air,with theplane exploding,,,then the headlines would have read something like this;"Plane carrying American missionaries and children shot down by Colombian rebels guarding coca plantation"Obviously,everyone responsible for this MURDER,tried to immediatly cover their asses........"no flight plan"......"no response to radio warnings"......Peruvian air force to blame,,etc...I hope this helps to wake more people up to the grotesque U.S. military drug war SHAM.dddd 
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Comment #1 posted by lookinside on April 22, 2001 at 21:22:00 PT:
bush is a liar...impeach him...
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