Mexico's public security minister, a key figure in the war against drug cartels, was killed Wednesday when his helicopter crashed in fog in mountains near the capital.
Rescue workers found the charred wreckage of Ramon Martin Huerta's helicopter six hours after contact was lost early into a flight from the capital to a high-security prison.
In a televised address, President Vicente Fox vowed to push on with his fight against violent gangs running drugs into the United States.
"Today, more than ever, I repeat the commitment of my government and of the nation to build a safe Mexico, of justice, peace and freedom," he said.
Fox said the crash was "a terrible accident." Martin Huerta was one of the president's closest aides and an old friend.
The Bell 412 helicopter crashed at full speed into a rocky area and burst into flames after the pilot apparently lost visibility in thick fog flying through hilly terrain, the Interior Ministry said.
"This leads us to conclude that it was a tragic accident caused by adverse weather conditions," it said, reports Reuters.
According to Guardian, The Interior Department said that “everything appears to indicate that this was an unfortunate accident, caused by adverse weather conditions.”
Mario Martinez, a pilot who was following in another helicopter, told local media that Huerta's craft had disappeared into a dense bank of clouds and was lost to view.
Mexican media outlets began speculating within hours of the helicopter's disappearance about the possible involvement of drug trafficking groups.
The flight was on its way to a swearing-in ceremony for prison guards, the culmination of an effort to purge corrupt officials from a prison holding notorious Mexican drug gang leaders.
The prison was cordoned off earlier this year by federal troops after investigators found evidence that reputed drug lords Osiel Cardenas and Benjamin Arellano Felix had joined forces and were operating their networks from behind bars.
Also on the flight was Jose Antonio Bernal, an official from the country's National Human Rights Commission. Bernal had been threatened in the past by Cardenas, reportedly because Bernal had refused to recommend greater privileges for Cardenas at the prison.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18