Mexico yet to recover last body from crash site

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2010 7:02 PM
Mexico yet to recover last body from crash site

Bad weather prevented authorities on Monday from retrieving the body of a California doctor who was killed with three other U.S. citizens when their plane crashed while on a medical aid mission in northern Mexico.

Baja California state's civil protection director, Alfredo Escobedo, said a helicopter flight to recover Dr. James Thornton's body was being delayed because of fog.

"The problem has been the dense fog which blocks visibility and makes the flight too risky," Escobedo said.

The Beechcraft A36 was flying from Ensenada to San Quintin when it apparently hit a 3,900-foot (1,200-meter) hill and then slid down to a mesa Friday.

Those aboard were all from California _ pilot Roger Lyon of Cayucos, Thornton and Dr. Graciela Sarmiento, both of Arroyo Grande, and student Andrew Thiel in San Luis Obispo.

The bodies of the other three victims were removed from the wreckage Saturday and flown to a morgue in Ensenada. Thornton's burned body was entangled in the wreckage, which hampered the recovery, Escobedo said.

Thornton was a plastic surgeon who had been with the Flying Samaritans for 20 years, making two trips annually to treat people with such conditions as cleft palates, disfiguring burns or clubbed hands, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.

The Flying Samaritans is an all-volunteer organization that transports medical personnel to at least 17 clinics in Baja California.

The plane's pilot, Lyon, was a leading lawyer for the Hearst family and recently worked on a deal to preserve the 82,000-acre Hearst Ranch that was built by late media magnate William Randolph Hearst in San Simeon.

Stephen Hearst, vice president of Hearst Corp. and great-grandson of William Randolph Hearst, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had known Lyon for decades.

"He was an extraordinary attorney and a wonderful guy," Hearst was quoted as saying.