Mexico City A helicopter carrying the Cabinet minister in charge of Mexico's federal police, his deputy and seven others crashed in cloud-shrouded mountains outside Mexico City on Wednesday, killing everyone on board, President Vicente Fox said.
The Bell helicopter was carrying Public Safety Secretary Ramon Martin Huerta - a trusted Fox ally whose ministry heads the federal police - Federal Preventive Police Chief Tomas Valencia, five other passengers and a crew of two.
It had taken off from a military base in Mexico City and was headed to a ceremony at the maximum-security La Palma prison, 35 miles west of Mexico City, when it crashed in dense clouds.
"They all died in the line of duty," Fox said in a televised address.
Rescuers had spent hours searching the sparsely populated forests outside Mexico City for the helicopter.
"We are probably looking at an accident," Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal told reporters before the helicopters wreckage was discovered.
Mexican media began speculating within hours of the helicopter's disappearance about the possible involvement of drug trafficking groups.
The flight was on its way to a swearing-in ceremony for prison guards, the culmination of an effort to purge corrupt officials from a prison holding notorious Mexican drug gang leaders.
The prison was cordoned off earlier this year by federal troops after investigators found evidence that reputed drug lords Osiel Cardenas and Benjamin Arellano Felix had joined forces and were operating their networks from behind bars.