Thursday, May 14, 2015

Inquiring Minds

A week ago Thursday a single engine Cessna was spotted a mile north of where we live, flying just a few hundred feet above the water about half a mile off shore. Somebody was hanging underneath it.

As sunbathers and hotel guests watched in horror from the beach, the aircraft went into a brief spin, plunged into the bay and sank.

News accounts quickly appeared online in both English and Spanish. The Cessna 180 was owned by a skydive operation. There were five people aboard when the plane took off. Three were pulled from the water. Search and rescue  teams weren't able to reach the deep-sunk wreckage or locate the other two passengers, now presumed dead.

One story on the day after the accident mentioned in passing that the events leading to the crash appeared to have begun when a pair of skydivers jumped from the plane and their equipment got tangled in the landing gear.

After that and to this day, nothing.

Obviously there's a story of mortal terror to be told about whatever happened starting with the violent lurch and tilt thousands of feet above the bay that must have been the first sign that the jump had gone wrong, and ending with the crash witnessed by hundreds.

The pilot and two passengers survived without serious injuries, but I've found no sign in public media of anything they might have to say about the chaotic survival struggles inside and outside the tiny cabin of that Cessna as it descended toward the water.

Yesterday Pam spotted a brief item in the UK Daily Mail identifying one of the dead as a British woman who was making her first tandem jump with an instructor. Her family pleaded in the piece for continuation of the search for her body.

The other victim was also identified as the jump instructor, a California woman described by friends in another brief from Lompoc CA as an adventure seeker. Both of them may have been swept from the plane high above and well away from the crash site. If so, the person seen clinging to the undercarriage may have been one of the survivors trying to jump to the water at low altitude before the crash.

I hope somebody bothers to tell us some day.

What amazes me isn't so much that the information hasn't been reported. There are only three living witnesses, and at least two of them seem to have been foreigners who may have gone home. The third, the pilot, may not want to talk or may have been told not to.

But it's remarkable that the local stories in both English and Spanish are straight police blotter renditions that don't even acknowledge the absence of nearly all the details that would be crucial to understanding what took place, or hint at any attempt to dig them out.

All this is sadly typical of what passes for news in Puerto Vallarta, a city of a quarter million that you'd expect to be better served by its news media. In fact there are at least a half dozen tabloids in addition to the four or five online sites I follow.

They offer a steady diet of luridly illustrated murders and assaults, car wrecks, and arrests of parents or neighbors accused of sexual abuse of children in their care. Sourcing is almost entirely limited to official statements and handouts. There's virtually no sign of reportorial enterprise of any kind.

I'm not suggesting that there's no real journalism south of the border. On the contrary, Mexico is now in the front rank of countries where reporters are threatened, beaten or even killed for poking too aggressively into narco-cartel business and other dark corners.

But the instincts and talents that drive that kind of journalism are curiously absent in our town, and I'm not sure why.

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