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These stories were publisehd Thursday, Nov. 29, 2001
Five passengers survive crash of plane near Quepos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Updated as of 1 p.m. Thursday

The two pilots died as did a Costa Rican passenger when a Sansa passenger plane crashed into heavy jungle while trying to land at Quepos Wednesday.

Three U.S. citizens, a German woman and another Costa Rican, all passengers, survived, although they had to wait until Thursday morning to be found by rescuers.

The dead were pilot Ricardo Sálazar Mora, 29, a veteran of nearly 5,000 hours of commercial flying; the copilot, Carlos Lacayo, 26, a veteran of at least 800 commercial hours of flying time, and Adolfo Preus Strasburger, believed to be a businessman. 

Survivors are Brandon and Brandy Willy and Michael Packard, the U.S. citizens; Silke Friebold, the German woman; and Alvaro Zúñiga, a Costa Rican. 

The German woman, Zúñiga and Brandon Willy were in good enough shape to leave the crash scene without being carried. Brandy Willy was pictured on Costa Rican television on a stretcher in a Red Cross ambulance.

She was conscious, and when pressed by an intrusive television reporter she said "Hi, family and friends! We’ll all safe. Thank God!"

Brandon Willy told reporters that they gathered up clothes to spend the night but that "some people were dead." He appeared to have suffered facial cuts.

All the survivors were pictured sitting up at the crash scene, although some, particularly Packard and Zúñiga, appeared to be in pain. Later rescuers classified two as being in critical condition but did not say which two.

The plane crashed with such force that pieces were spread over the jungle floor, and some trees as thick as eight inches in diameter were sheared off. 

One survivor told reporters that there were many clouds and then the plane crashed.

The U.S. citizens were being taken by ambulance to Clinica Biblica in San José. Searchers found the wreck before 8 a.m., according to the Costa Rican Red Cross, which had more than 70 persons in the field. Police also were involved, and the whole search mission involved nearly 150 persons.

A physician was at the scene almost immediately, according to officials at the temporary command post at the plane’s planned destination, the Quepos airport. Communications from the scene to Quepos and to the Red Cross headquarters in San José were spotty due to the rugged nature of the mountainous area for most of the morning, thereby lending to the suspense of exactly who was dead.

The Sansa passenger airplane was carrying a total  eight persons when it vanished while landing at Quepos around midday Wednesday, and police and rescue workers could not find a trace all afternoon.

The plane was enroute from San Jose’s Juan Santamaría Airport before noon for the small airport at the Central Pacific coastal town.

The route to Quepos took the plane over rugged mountain ranges and several rivers. But the pilot radioed the airport a few minutes before the scheduled landing and said that he was enroute normally, officials said.

The plane was a single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan, manufactured in 1999 by the U.S. company. The plane is carrying an emergency locator beacon, but there were conflicting reports if the beacon has been triggered, something that normally would happen in a major crash.

The site of the wreck was been called San Marcos de Tarrazu. The crash site was located by a search team headed by a man identified as Francisco Zúñiga. It was unknown if he was related to the survivor with the same name.

On the trail with his really good homemade bread
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Breadman Bruce Babcock
The Working Life:

One of a series of stories about foreigners who are making a go of it here in Costa Rica!

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canadian Bruce Babcock is gaining a reputation for himself as the Downtown Breadman. The sometimes construction worker can be seen afternoons lugging around a canvas bag of his homemade banana bread, a business he has done off and on for nearly eight years.

He has plenty of incentive. The single father has two kids, Barbie, 4 1/2, and Buck, 6, who accompany him when they are not in school.

Babcock, 47, who is from Vancouver, isn’t targeting the tourist trade. "I have repeat customers and people who keep coming back," he said Wednesday. Most of them are North Americans, he said.

He awakes early, between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., to begin baking the bread. The result are heavy, juicy dark, fat loaves that he carefully wraps in plastic. The banana bread sometimes contains walnuts or raisins or both.

One of his customers is Hemingway Inn, the Barrio Amon hotel that offers free breakfasts. He sells them seven loaves once a week for their guests, he said.  On Saturday, he hits the La Sabana Office Center where he has a route of businesses there that have become repeat customers.

During the week he visits the downtown around 1 p.m. and beings a walking route that takes him into the early evening or until all of his 12 to 16 loaves are sold. Sometimes that is 7 p.m. or later. He is well known around the Plaza of Culture.

The loaves are not cheap. He gets from 850 to 1,200 colons ($2.50 to $3.50), depending on content. But they are similar to the high-end bread sold up north. Bread can be ordered at 252-2618. Babcock said he is looking for another construction job now, but until he finds one, the bread will be his staff of life.

Three readers accept our math challenge and win our praise
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The question was how come the odds in Costa Rica’s new electronic lottery was a mere 1,947,792 to 1 when some math approaches would suggest that the odds would be a lot higher.

We said: "The Costa Rican lottery requires someone to pick six correct, two-digit numbers. 36x36x36x36x36x36 = 21,76,782,336. Yet the real odds for the Costa Rica lotto are much smaller, less than 2 million to 1: 1,947,792 to 1. Why is this so?"

We also challenged readers to explain why.

Three readers responded with the correct answer. Several others explained part of the disparity.

"Your brain teaser is easy," said Michael Josephy, who had a University of Costa Rica e-mail address.  "The number you want is ‘36 choose 6,’ that is, 36!/6!30! = 36 x 35 x 34 x 33 x 32 x 31/6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 1,947,792. "

"It helps to be a university math professor," he said, adding a little Internet smile graphic.

Another reader used information in the story to get the answer: "Regarding the teaser, basically you gave me the answer when you included the math

Web page . . . ," said Robert Harvey.
"If you follow the same principle, you have a lotto with 36 numbers.  There are 36 possibilities for the first number drawn, and 35 for the second, 34 for the third, etc. . . .  If you multiply 36*35*34*33*32*31, this equals = 1,402,410,240  This sum has to be multiplied by the different number of possible combinations, therefore 6*5*4*3*2*1 equals= 720. 

"Then you divide 1,402,410,240 by 720 and your result for possible combinations is 1,947,792.  Therefore, your chance in winning is 1 in 1,947,792."

"As a person who has squandered my share on lottery tickets, the answer is as follows, said Mike Gordon of Atlanta, Ga. "On the first draw you have 6 chances in 36 that one of your numbers will be chosen, after that for each number it is 5/35, 4/34, 3/33, 2/32 and finally 1/31. 

"Expressed as decimals this is:

.1666 x .143 x .118 x .091 x .0625 x .0323  = ~.000000513% or 1 in  1,947,792"

So as was promised in the little brain teaser Wednesday, the above persons are publicly acknowledged as not having gone to seed.

Funny U.S. money detected in Quepos, La Fortuna
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested three Spanish tourists in Quepos this week to face allegations that they passed phony U.S. $100 bills.

Meanwhile, police are looking for two Colombian women they picked up and then let go in order to investigate the same type of crime.

Investigators said the three Spanish tourists entered the country Nov. 19. Last week merchants in Quepos and police realized that false $100 bills were in circulation. After an investigation, police arrested the three men in a rented vehicle.

They said bad bills were passed in the town Wednesday and Thursday, and that the hotel room where the men stayed was paid for with another false bill.

Before coming to Quepos, the men were in La 

Fortune near Arenal Volcano, and another false bill has been detected there, a spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said, adding that  five more bad bills were seized when the men were arrested.

They identified them as Oscar Delparte Pascual, 36, David Calvo Viera, 37, and Juan Ramón Rodríguez Molejón, 38.

The two Colombians, Johana Velez Marín, 25, and Ana María Pérez Alzate, 23, were detained when police discovered that a false $100 bill had been passed in the commercial zone of Quepos.

They let the women go briefly, and then they received news that yet another bad bill had surfaced in the town and that it had been passed by two persons resembling the women. 

The pair had been in Quepos for about a month, investigators said.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Ana Lorena Brenes Molina takes her case to the people at the Plaza of Culture Wednesday.

Woman presses her case
with public exhibit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Cartago woman took to the streets Wednesday to generate support in her long and complex fight with agencies of the Costa Rica government.

She is Ann Lorena Brenes Molina, and she showed up with friends about 10 a.m. at the Plaza of Culture Wednesday with two posters outlining her long battle with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia and other Costa Rican bureaucrats.

Her visit created a stir because she hung her signs on a steel fence of the National Theater. Officials there objected and set up a brief shouting match that was attended by police and curious citizens.

Later courteous police asked her to move from the plaza to the pedestrian walkway to the south, and she complied. Even later she took her signs out on Avenida Principal.

Some spectators labeled her as crazy, and one of her complaints is that the government succeeded in getting her adjudged incompetent. But she told the crowd to judge for themselves her competency. She seemed lucid and coherent, although her complaints are complex and impossible to evaluate without extensive investigation.

Wednesday night she said she would be out again today trying to generate support for her case, which she seemed to suggest was political and far more important than her own situation.

She said she was struggling against corruption and against a government that does not have sufficient concern for women and families.

U.N. report on AIDS
is pessimistic at best 

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW YORK — The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is worsening, according to a new U.N. report Thursday.

"We've estimated there's been an additional three million deaths in the past year, five million new infections, and perhaps a total of 40 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS," said Dr. Desmond Johns, the U.N. AIDS representative to U.N. headquarters at a press conference.

The report, entitled "AIDS Epidemic Update, December 2001," was released to coincide with World AIDS Day Dec. 1. In addition to the report, the U.N. will hold an international town hall meeting Friday focusing on the role of individuals in responding to HIV/AIDS and the impact of the epidemic worldwide.

Dr. Johns said that U.N. AIDS sees both the report and the meeting as "a commemoration for those who have fallen victim to the illness, but also a celebration of life and a chance for those of us who have been involved to rededicate and reinvigorate our efforts."

According to the report, at the end of 2001 an estimated 40 million people globally are living with HIV. In many parts of the developing world, the majority of new infections occur in young adults, with young women especially vulnerable. One-third of those currently living with HIV/AIDS are between 15 and 24 years old.

While the number of new cases in Africa actually represents a slight slowing of the epidemic over the previous year, Dr. Johns said that in some parts of Swaziland, South Africa, and Botswana more than 30 percent of citizens are now infected or estimated to be infected.

He also said that the overall low prevalence may, in fact, be misleading because in some cases it masks more severe epidemics in segments of populations, such as commercial sex workers and intravenous drug users.

An estimated 1.8 million adults and children are living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the report issued by U.N.AIDS. 

Police probe two shootings 

In Aurora de Heredia four young men suffered wounds in a home Tuesday night when another person showed up and began shooting. The four men went to the hospital, each wounded by a bullet.

In San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados early Tuesday morning one man, named Pérez, 38, suffered four bullet wounds when two men on a motorcycle drove by and opened fire, according to investigators.

Fox promises justice
for 'dirty war' victims

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Vicente Fox has vowed to seek justice for the families and victims of those abducted, tortured and killed during Mexico's so-called "dirty war" in the 1970s. 

President Fox said Tuesday a special prosecutor will be designated to investigate the 532 abductions detailed in a report by the Mexican Human Rights Commission. 

The document says 275 people vanished without a trace. It also alleges government security forces tortured and killed all the political activists named in the two-thousand page document. The report says most of the abuses occurred under two former presidents, Luis Echeverria from 1970 to 1976 and Jose Lopez Portillo from 1976 to 1982. 

Both leaders were members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI. Fox was elected last year, ending the PRI's 71 consecutive years of rule.  President Fox's promise on Tuesday follows a campaign pledge to uncover disappearances and abuses committed during these years. 

Dozens of former government officials are named in the report, but their identities have not been released. The dirty war was primarily directed against activists with suspected links to guerrillas in the southwestern Guerrero state.

Amazon monitoring
aimed at drug flights

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Work is proceeding quickly on installing an advanced electronic surveillance system in Brazil's vast Amazon basin to monitor activities ranging from air traffic control and drug trafficking to changes in water quality. The $1.4 billion System for the Vigilance of the Amazon (SIVAM) is scheduled to be in place and ready to operate next year. 

At a military airport in Manaus, a forklift wheels huge boxes of equipment onto the tarmac where a large cargo plane stands waiting. The plane will carry the equipment parts for a mobile radar station to a remote jungle outpost where it will be assembled and mounted.

The mobile radar station will be among the key installations that will form part of Brazil's electronic surveillance system. The U.S. company Raytheon is providing most of the equipment and financing for the project. These include radars, air traffic control equipment, various kinds of sensors, and specialized computer software.

Right now, there are only five air traffic control radars in the Brazilian Amazon, leaving vast tracts of land unmonitored.

Flying over the Amazon right now is like flying over the Pacific Ocean," said Charles Fairman who is in charge of Raytheon's operations in Manaus. "Under the SIVAM program, Raytheon is delivering and installing 20 additional radars. These will be integrated with the existing five radars into a state of the art air traffic and control center here in Manaus. We've already completed the installation and testing of four of these radars, which effectively increases the coverage by 80 percent."

Improved air traffic control is one of the main reasons Brazil decided to go ahead with the SIVAM project. But the main reason is security. SIVAM is a Brazilian military project, and will be run by the military. 

Former Air Force Minister, retired Brig. Mauro Jose Miranda Gandra, says curbing illegal activities was the prime motivation when the SIVAM project was being planned in the early 1990s. 

When it is fully operational, the SIVAM system will be able to detect low flying aircraft piloted by drug traffickers, not only by the ground radars but from planes. 

The Raytheon company is providing the surveillance equipment that will be used on the Brazilian-built planes that will routinely fly missions over the Amazon jungle. 

Young girl gets wish
in visit to Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A young Minnesota girl, Nicol Hoffman, visited Costa Rica as a guest of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that tries to advance the desires of sick children.

Mike Gamble of Make-A-Wish Foundation International in Phoenix, Ariz., confirmed Wednesday that the visit took place.

Miss Hoffman, 8, has fought and apparently won a battle with liver cancer. When she was gravely ill three years ago she expressed the wish to visit Africa or the rain forests, the volcanoes and the animals and the other sites of Costa Rica. The wish was filled in colaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Costa Rica, said Gamble.

The foundation granted her wish several years ago, but the family did not think that she was strong enough to make the trip until now. They live in Cambridge, Minn.

International cricket 
comes to Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ground of the Humbolt School in Pavas was the scene of a cricket match Saturday. A team assembled from several parts of Costa Rica went against a team from Hollywood, Calif.

Participants said that about 60 spectators appeared to cheer on the two 11-member teams.

The Costa Rican team won the first match. A second match Sunday in Limón was rained out.

The games were sponsored by a local pharmaceutical company.

Still no sign found
of missing U.S. citizen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fliers have been posted as far away as the San José area in the search for a missing elderly U.S. citizen who is said to have walked away from his tour group Nov. 19 at Tabacón Resort near La Fortuna de San Carlos and the Arenal Volcano.

The man is Leo Widicker, and he was still considered missing as of Thursday night.

Because the man is 86 and ailing, police believe he may have become confused and somehow traveled well beyond the cordon that rescue agencies put up within hours after he was reported missing.

The road in front of the resort is eroded and has been prone to slides into stream that follows the road. In places the road is reduced to one-lane travel. However, rescue workers searched the stream and the land below the resort without success.

The fliers around town list a telephone number of the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, although embassy employees said they had nothing to do with the fliers. That number is 220-3127. Calls also are being taken by the offices of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

You won't need 
to walk to work

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi drivers did not go on strike Wednesday as they had threatened. 

A last minute meeting called by the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation allowed representatives of the taxi industry to air their gripes. They had threatened to call the strike of the 5,000 officially registered taxi drivers in the country unless they got a meeting.

Among the gripes are concerns that unlicensed taxi drivers, so-called pirates, are taking work away from the licensed drivers.

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