Town awaits the return of bodies of young stowaways who fell from U.S.-bound jet

Feb 28, 2018 | 21 comments

They were high school students who dreamed of moving to the U.S. to work. Instead, the bodies of Marco Pichasaca and Luis Chimbo, aged 17 and 16, will be delivered to their grieving families in Cañar Province for burial.

The boys were cousins, their homes less than 100 meters apart in Cachi, a small, poor and heavily indigenous community about 25 miles north of Cuenca.

The families of two boys who died at the Guayaquil airport gathered Monday afternoon. (El Comercio)

The boys died Monday when they attempted to stow away in the landing gear of a Latam jet bound from Guayaquil to New York. As the landing gear retracted on take-off, Pichasaca and Chimbo fell about 250 meters, landing at the end of the airport runway.

Although the victims were at first identified as Peruvians, the sister of Marco Pichasaca recognized her brother’s clothing and backpack from a television news broadcast. “I knew it was him because he was wearing the same clothes the last time we saw him on Sunday,” said María Cruz Pichasaca. “We didn’t know why they did not come home Sunday. Now we know and our hearts are broken.”

The family called police with the identifications.

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María Cruz said the families’ knew of the boys’ intentions to move to the U.S. “They had talked about it but said they would wait until the end of the school year. We have relatives in New York and New Jersey,” she said.

Police in Guayaquil continue to investigate how the boys were able to enter the restricted area at José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport where aircraft refuel and board passengers. An investigator says his focus is whether the boys were assisted by members of the ground crew.

The bodies of Pichasaca and Chimbo were expected to arrive in Cachi early Wednesday.

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