travel & healthcare solutions
<< BACK  
January 31, 2011  Drug Cartels use Air Ambulances in Costa Rica
This year, at AMTC, the AMPA Board was made aware of a situation that is seriously affecting the community of one of our international members. Dr. Eduardo Loyola, a devoted AMPA member and a Medical Director from Costa Rica, informed us of some disturbing new activities of Central American drug cartels.
According to Dr. Loyola, Costa Rican authorities have noted that drug cartels have “discovered new and more sophisticated ways to support the logistics, fund the transport operations, and infiltrate key players,” utilizing air medical operations. Recently a helicopter, used in air medical transport, crashed in the jungle with 400 kg of cocaine on board. Last month a fixed-wing aircraft crashed shortly after take off and was found to have 170 kg of cocaine hidden in it’s fuel tanks.
Dr. Loyola says, “At this point it is impossible to determine the reach of the problem, but it looks like unfortunately some operators have found more profit in transporting drugs than patients.”
While I certainly hope that such activity is isolated to Costa Rica, my gut and experience tells me that this is highly unlikely. The Board agrees with Dr. Loyola that if such activity escalates, it could jeopardize the operations of those in our community that provide international transports, in particular, those who transport to and from Central America.
To help combat this trend, Dr. Loyola recommends that the following precautions:
1. Exercise caution when traveling to any airport in the Central American region.
2. Double check the travel documents and identity of the patient and their family
3. Beware of cash payments.
4. Crews should remain highly vigilant and notify authorities immediately if they
notice any signs of aircraft or equipment tampering.
5. Consider including in your protocols a request for drug sniffing dogs to help
screen your aircraft and improve safety.
6. Crews should also exercise caution while in country. They should carry with
them the numbers to contact the American Embassy to provide support if

Hopefully by following his recommendations, we can help with the current predicament and make the international transport environment a safer place.