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U.S. Southern Command has identified an airman killed in an Oct. 5 plane crash in Colombia while taking part in an operation targeting drug traffickers.
Master Sgt. Martin Gonzales, 39, was one of four people killed when a U.S.-contracted DH-8 crashed near the Panamanian border, according to a SOUTHCOM news release. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Gonzales’ wife issued a statement through SOUTHCOM:
“The loss and pain of losing my husband, Master Sgt. Martin Gonzales is indescribable. He passed away very tragically while proudly serving for the US Air Force. He loved his job and was willing to risk his own life for others. He leaves behind two beautiful children, Nathan 7 and Kaitlyn 4. This is a very difficult time for our family. I still can't believe the plane my husband was in crashed and took his life. All I have left are memories of him. It's difficult to know that I will never see or hear his voice again. To me, he is an American hero!”
Two American contractors were also killed in the crash along with a Panamanian National Air-Naval lieutenant, the news release says. Two other U.S. contractors were rescued by the Colombian military and taken to a hospital on Bogota, where they are stable following surgery.
“Our hearts remain with the families of the men who lost their lives in this tragic crash,” Marine Gen. John Kelly, SOUTHCOM commander, said in the news release “It is a terrible tragedy, but we remain committed to finding out what happened and hopefully bring some sort of peace to the families.”
About 230 airmen are currently serving in Central and South America and the Caribbean, said SOUTHCOM spokeswoman Air Force Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden. Those airmen support SOUTHCOM missions including countering transnational crime, taking care of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, working with partner nations and planning for contingencies across the region.