Gordon Varey, Former UW Dean, And Wife Killed In Mexico Crash
AP: Seattle Times Staff
COZUMEL, Mexico - A helicopter carrying 13 tourists, including a former dean at the University of Washington and his wife, radioed about a mechanical failure moments before plunging into the sea off this Mexican island resort, authorities said today.
The bodies of 10 tourists and the Mexican pilot were recovered shortly after the helicopter went down yesterday afternoon. Three other tourists were missing and presumed dead, U.S. consular officials said. One of the tourists was an Italian; the rest were from the United States.
Among those missing and presumed dead is Gordon Varey, 63, former dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Washington. The body of his wife, Mary, was one of those recovered after the crash.
Varey announced his retirement from the university in 1991 and was replaced by Paul Schell, a former Port of Seattle commissioner and local developer, in 1992.
Since then, Varey had been working part time and had continued to be active in the affairs of the university, Schell said.
"He made a major contribution here, and he left his mark on this college," said Schell. "He was a mentor to many. We've lost a good friend."
Varey is survived by a son, Doug, and daughter, Jennifer.
The helicopter was flying back to a cruise ship from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula along with another Bell 212 helicopter when it went down in the Caribbean, police said. The other helicopter landed
Brian Wilson, a U.S. Consulate volunteer involved in the search, said the helicopter reported mechanical failure shortly before it plunged into the 12-mile-wide channel separating Cozumel island from the Yucatan.
There was no evidence of a fierce storm as initially reported by authorities, he said.
The bodies recovered were taken to a Cozumel morgue. The search continued today for the three other passengers, but Wilson said it could be hampered by strong ocean currents.
The helicopters, rented by a local travel agency, had taken the tourists on a daylong excursion from the ship to see Mayan Indian ruins at Chichen Itza, a popular tourist attraction.
David Van Valkenvurg, an American consular official, said 12 of the 13 tourists were married couples on a Caribbean cruise from Miami aboard the Costa Romantica, run by Costa Cruise Lines.
Cozumel is about 50 miles from Cancun. Both the island and peninsula are favorite tourist spots, particularly for wintering Americans.
The helicopter plunged into the channel about three miles west of the island airport on Cozumel's northwest coastline. Ramon Caracas Silva, the airport commander, initially said a fierce tropical rain and wind storm broke out as the helicopter approached land.
But Wilson said today that bad weather did not appear to be a factor.
The Costa Romantica had docked at Playa del Carmen, a harbor on the mainland, where the two helicopters picked up the passengers.
The ship then moved to Cozumel, where it planned to pick up the returning passengers, naval authorities said.
Cozumel is visited by more than 1,000 cruise ships each year and helicopters are a frequent means of traversing the Yucatan's steamy jungles to visit the many Indian ruins dating to as early as 550 AD.
Published Correction Date: 11/04/94 - This Story Incorrectly Described Paul Schell's Relationship With The Port Of Seattle. He Is Currently A Port Commissioner.
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