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13 die after helicopter crashes while surveying Mexico earthquake damage

The remains of the military helicopter lay where it fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake rattled Mexico, causing little damage but triggering a tragedy when a minister's helicopter crash-landed on the way to the epicenter, killing 13 people, including three children, on the ground.
The remains of the military helicopter lay where it fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake rattled Mexico, causing little damage but triggering a tragedy when a minister's helicopter crash-landed on the way to the epicenter, killing 13 people, including three children, on the ground.
PATRICIA CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images

Thirteen people died and 15 were injured Friday night after a military helicopter carrying government officials assessing earthquake damage crashed in southern Mexico, said the Oaxaca state prosecutor's office.

Five women, four men and three children died at the scene and another person died later at the hospital, according to the prosecutor's office said.

View of victims's coffins placed in a house after a military helicopter that fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018.
View of victims's coffins placed in a house after a military helicopter that fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018.
PATRICIA CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images

All of the victims had been on the ground, reports The Associated Press. Details of the casualties are still unclear.

The helicopter was carrying Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca State Governor Alejandro Murat, who were both reportedly unharmed.

It was attempting to land in a vacant lot in the town of Santiago Jamiltepec when the pilot appeared to lose control, witnesses said.

A pair of sandals are seen next to remains of a military helicopter that fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018.
A pair of sandals are seen next to remains of a military helicopter that fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018.
PATRICIA CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images

Both Murat and Navarrete tweeted their sympathy early Saturday to the victims of the crash.

Hours earlier, both men tweeted photos of themselves being briefed by a military official. Navarrete said they were about to begin a tour of the area affected by the quake.

Around 5:30 p.m. local time, a 7.2 magnitude temblor hit south and central Mexico, apparently causing no death and little destruction, but rattling a region still jittery from a September quake that killed more than 200 people.

NPR's Carrie Kahn reported from the capital Mexico City that she felt Friday's earthquake "pretty strong."

"You could just feel the whole floor move from out from under you," she said. "And everybody was out in the streets in my neighborhood and looking up at this eight-story building that was right next to us, just swaying back and forth."

A woman embraces a boy after a powerful earthquake rocked Mexico City on February 16, 2018.
A woman embraces a boy after a powerful earthquake rocked Mexico City on February 16, 2018.
YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was located about 23 miles from Pinotepa de Don Luis in Oaxaca state.

Fifty homes in nearby Santiago Jamiltepec suffered major damage in the quake, as did the city hall and main church, said the Interior Department in a statement.

Later Friday, Santiago Jamiltepec also became the site of the deadly crash.

Mexican newspaper Milenio published a video of the crash's aftermath, showing crowds milling about a dusty lot and at least one body lying on the ground.

The remains of the military helicopter lay where it fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake rattled Mexico, causing little damage but triggering a tragedy when a minister's helicopter crash-landed on the way to the epicenter, killing 13 people, including three children, on the ground.
The remains of the military helicopter lay where it fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake rattled Mexico, causing little damage but triggering a tragedy when a minister's helicopter crash-landed on the way to the epicenter, killing 13 people, including three children, on the ground.
PATRICIA CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images

Jorge Rosales, a reporter aboard the helicopter, spoke to a local television news station about the terrifying moment the pilot lost control.

"The moment the helicopter touched down it lost control, it slid — like it skidded — and it hit some vehicles that were stationed in the area," he said, according to an AP translation. "In that moment, you couldn't see anything, nothing else was heard besides the sound that iron makes when it scrapes the earth."

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

A soldier observes the remains of a military helicopter that fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018.
A soldier observes the remains of a military helicopter that fell on a van in Santiago Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 17, 2018.
PATRICIA CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images

NPR's Carla Solorzano contributed to this report.

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