August 25, 2005

U.S. border patrol helicopter downed by illegals

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter was
forced to make an emergency landing after illegal immigrants
pelted it with baseball-sized rocks, damaging a rotor, a
spokesman for the agency said on Thursday.

There were no injuries as the helicopter's pilot was able
to set the aircraft down just north of the All American Canal
on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, Border Patrol
spokesman Michael Gramley said.

Authorities say smugglers are becoming increasingly willing
to use violence against border patrol agents as their trade
becomes more profitable, with smugglers able to earn about
$2,000 per person.

The helicopter pilot was responding to a call for help from
agents on the ground on Tuesday evening when about 10 people on
the south bank of the canal began hurling large rocks at the

"One of the rocks struck one of the three rotors and the
pilot instantly felt a bad vibration as he was flying," Gramley
said. "He immediately made an emergency landing approximately 1
mile east of the incident."

Gramley said agents on the ground caught 17 people who had
crossed to the north side of the canal but most of the 10 seen
throwing rocks escaped back across the border. Mexican
authorities were contacted but did not arrest them, he said.

"We believe these 10 subjects were involved in alien
smuggling," he said. "We've seen an increased trend in the Yuma
(Arizona) sector of violence by smugglers toward agents." The
incident took place on the California-Mexico border close to
the Arizona state line.