3 Injured as Mission Plane Crashes in Ecuador’s Jungle

Three people were injured when a plane operated by Alas de Socorro Ecuador (ADSE) crashed Wednesday, March 29, after takeoff in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador in South America. The organization is the Ecuadorian affiliate of the U.S.-based agency Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

The pilot and two of his passengers were injured but nobody was killed when an MAF plane crashed near the jungle community of Moretecocha.

When the Quest Aircraft Kodiak nine-passenger plane struck a riverbed near Moretecocha in Ecuador’s eastern province of Pastaza, the pilot, Captain José Daniel Soria, and two of his six passengers sustained injuries, according to the Dirección General de Aviación Civil (DGAC) of Ecuador.

Initial medical care was provided by the staff at Hospital General in Puyo with the two injured passengers released following treatment. Soria, who suffered a fractured pelvis upon impact, was subsequently transferred to Hospital Metropolitano in Quito. He is under the care of Dr. Leonardo Febres, an orthopedic surgeon who accompanied a Reach Beyond disaster response team to Haiti after a devastating earthquake in January 2010.

DGAC began its investigation a day after the crash at Moretecocha. “As always it is difficult due to the runway conditions and more so because of the weather conditions [at Moretecocha],” said accident investigator Carlos Segura before boarding a plane with six other specialists headed out for field investigation at the remote airstrip. His team hopes to issue a preliminary accident report in three weeks with a complete investigation possibly taking months.

In a letter to financial donors, missionary Linda McFarland of Shell asked people to pray for MAF missionaries and the Ecuadorian staff “for God’s peace to fill them, and for His wisdom to guide them through this [the investigation].” Eight days earlier her husband, Ian, of Reach Beyond Community Development had been on the same Kodiak plane for a flight to another jungle community.

The Kodiak was specifically developed by Quest Aircraft Company to meet the needs of missionary aviators. It is a short takeoff and landing aircraft, able to service nearly all of the 200 rain forest communities served by the mission aviation agency.

Some of the Kodiak planes have been produced under the Quest Mission Team program, and several have been supplied to such organizations as MAF and Jungle Aviation and Radio Services (JAARS). Delivered to ADSE’s hangar in Shell last year, the Quest Kodiak has made numerous flights to the jungle.

Capable of crossing the Andes, the plane was also used in response to medical emergencies following an earthquake that struck Ecuador’s coastal provinces in April 2016.

ADSE has been flying the skies of Ecuador since 1948 when MAF missionary pilot Nate Saint established a base at Shell. Coupling his work with sharing the gospel, Saint transported tons of building materials, food, fuel and other supplies to remote mission stations. He died with four other missionaries in a spearing attack in early 1956.

Ecuador’s Civil Aviation Authority has certified ADSE, its mechanics and pilots as an air taxi operator and as an Approved Maintenance Organization

About 20 years ago on Sept. 14, 1997, a Cessna 185 plane slammed into a 9,500-foot mountain between Shell and Baños, killing ADSE’s Job Orellana, his brother, Walter, and MAF pilot Dan Osterhus. The pilots had been involved in a search-and-rescue mission to locate a commercial Cessna airplane that had crashed in the same region a day earlier, killing its two occupants.


By Ralph Kurtenbach / photo used with permission of Eco Amazonico (ecoamazonico.org)

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