Did helicopter pilot lie in drowning case?

Did helicopter pilot lie in drowning case? 1 Sep, 11, Source: HeliHub.com

A jury is currently deliberating a case in Houston were a Department of Homeland Security pilot stands accused of lying about whether he flew his helicopter low over two would-be illegal immigrants in the Rio Grande in South Texas before one of the men drowned.

Surveillance video footage allegedly shows pilot James Peters flying his helicopter over the immigrants, getting as close as 100 ft from a bridge in Laredo, TX – perhaps in an attempt to drive the two water-borne immingrants back to the Mexican bank as they tried crossing into the US in December 2005.  Prosecutors say that the downdraft caused Carlos Delgadillo Martinez to lose his grip on an inner tube he was using as a flotation aid. His body was found later that day.

Peters was indicted on four counts of making false statements to investigators looking into the death by drowning. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.  However, his lawyers pointed out to jurors that the video doesn’t clearly show how far above the men the helicopter actually flew.

Thomas Berg, one of Peters’ attorneys, told jurors that the pilot didn’t lie to investigators when asked if he encountered illegal immigrants that day and whether he flew close to the bridge. Berg said Peters believed he did not fly too close to the bridge and didn’t recall flying over any individuals in the river that day.  He added that there is no proof of anyone drowning on the video and that  a Border Patrol agent testified that after the helicopter left, he saw two men get out of the water on the Mexican side of the river – although no proof whether these are the same two men.

Peters, who is currently stationed in Maine, has worked for Homeland Security since 1997, becoming a helicopter pilot in 2003.

William P Johnson – HeliHub.com US correspondent

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