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Tail rotor blamed for copter crash

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland - A faulty tail rotor was to blame for the helicopter crash off Canada's east coast earlier this year that killed 17 people, federal investigators said yesterday. The Transportation Safety Board found severely damaged tail rotor driver gears led to the March 12 crash.

"Without that tail rotor drive, your directional control ability is much more difficult," lead investigator Mike Cunningham said. "In other words, the nose is going up, then the nose is going down, and it's rolling to the left and it's rolling to the right."

The Sikorsky S-92A helicopter, piloted by two crew members, crashed about 40 miles southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland, as it was carrying workers to two offshore oil platforms. Investigators also found flotation devices failed to deploy, leaving the helicopter to sink into the ocean.

The families of 15 passengers who died in the crash and the one survivor, Robert Decker, are suing Sikorsky, Keystone Helicopters, and their parent company, United Technologies Corp.

- AP

Cruise ship heads back to its base

CARACAS, Venezuela - A cruise ship that was turned away from two Caribbean ports due to a swine flu outbreak headed back to its home base of Aruba yesterday after dropping off some of its passengers in Venezuela.

Three of some 400 crew members on the Ocean Dream have tested positive for swine flu and 11 others have flu symptoms, according to its Spanish operator, Pullmantur. Early word of the illnesses led port authorities in Grenada and Barbados to block the ship's scheduled stops Wednesday and prompted Pullmantur to cut short a nine-day cruise.

Authorities said 381 passengers, mostly Venezuelans but including 55 foreigners, got off the ship Wednesday night at Venezuela's Isla Margarita.

One Venezuelan and one Argentine among those disembarking showed possible swine flu (H1N1 virus) symptoms and were separated from the others, Deputy Health Minister Nancy Perez told government television.

- AP

Amazon Indian calls off protests

LIMA, Peru - A top Indian leader yesterday called off antigovernment demonstrations in Peru's Amazon after the country's Congress revoked two decrees that indigenous groups believe would spur oil and gas development on their lands.

The vice president of the Amazon Indian confederation, Daysi Zapata, asked members to lift blockades of jungle rivers and roads set up beginning in April. The protests turned bloody on June 5 when authorities broke up a road blockade. Twenty-three police were killed and, by Indian count, at least 30 civilians died.

Zapata made the announcement after lawmakers voted 82-14 to revoke the decrees. The Indians have opposed 11 pro-investment decrees enacted by President Alan Garcia so a free-trade agreement with the United States can take effect.

- AP