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2001 Roni and baby Charity Bowers
die in plane shot down in Peru.

Updated 16:25 UT 21 April 2001 -
The missionary plane[< photo: The plane which was shot down]
      Apparently mistaking American missionaries for drug smugglers, Peru's air force said Saturday that it shot down their plane over the Amazon River, killing a woman and her infant daughter. Three others survived the shooting and the crash Friday morning, and members of their missionary, the Pennsylvania-based Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, described the drama that took place at the remote jungle site. The survivors told of how the pilot, a veteran, second-generation missionary, was shot in the leg, mid-flight. He then lost control of the flaming, single-engine plane before managing to guide it into the river, where the survivors floated on the craft's pontoons for a half-hour before being rescued by local villagers. "Apparently the Peruvian pilot mistook it for an airplane transporting contraband drugs," U.S. Embassy spokesman Benjamin Ziff said.
     Peru's air force issued a statement early on 21 April confirming that the missionary's plane was shot down after it was detected at 10:05 a.m. local time by "an air space surveillance and control system" run jointly by Peru and the United States. The statement did not offer further details. The statement said the plane entered Peruvian air space from Brazil without filing a flight plan and that it was fired on after the pilot failed to identify himself. The Rev. E.C. Haskell, spokesman for the Baptist association, of New Cumberland, Pa., said the plane was en route from the Brazil-Peru border to the city of Iquitos, about 625 miles northeast of Lima, when it was attacked. Missionary Veronica "Ronnie" Bowers, 35, and her 7-month-old adopted daughter, Charity, were both killed and pilot Kevin Donaldson was wounded, he said. Also on board and unhurt were Bowers' husband, Jim Bowers, 35, and their 6-year-old son Cory, said Haskell. The Bowers are from Muskegon, Mich. and the Donaldsons from Morgantown, Pa., Haskell said. The missionary group has worked in Peru since 1939, according to its Web site. It helps found Baptist churches in the Iquitos area and other parts of the upper Amazon, and sends missionaries into remote areas along the river's tributaries.
      Donaldson's wife, Bobbi, said that her husband guided the plane into the river, where it flipped over. Veronica Bowers was holding her daughter on her lap when a bullet struck her in the back and then hit the child, Mrs. Donaldson said in a telephone interview from her home in Iquitos. Mrs. Donaldson said "there were two rounds of fire," and that the Peruvian jet fighter continued to fire as the plane went down. The telephones were busy through the night Friday night at the regional command in Iquitos, and there was no answer Saturday morning at the defense ministry. Quoting survivors, Mrs. Donaldson said local villagers brought the three survivors and two dead bodies to shore. After her husband "filled one canoe with blood, they put him a speedboat to take him for help" to a nearby jungle clinic, she said. He remained there Saturday morning. The Bowers had been returning from Leticia, Brazil, where they had picked up a Peruvian residency visa for Charity, Mrs. Donaldson said. She said another Peruvian air force plane - called in by the jet fighter - had taken Jim Bowers, his son, his dead wife and daughter back to Iquitos. Late Friday, Rev. Bill Rudd, the Bowers' minister in Fruitport, Mich., said the family planned to return to the United States on 21 April. Ziff said U.S. Embassy personnel had traveled to the crash scene late on 20 Apris. Mrs. Donaldson quoted Jim Bowers as saying that during the incident, he saw a plane flying nearby and that he believed it was an American aircraft. She also quoted him as saying that he was kept by unidentified U.S. agents for two hours in Iquitos before he was allowed to identify his wife's body. "We don't understand. We would like some answers," she said. Ziff did not have immediate comment about her statements.
      A U.S. surveillance plane monitored the Peruvian air force's downing of a plane carrying American missionaries mistaken for drug smugglers, a U.S. Embassy official said on 21 April. The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to say whether the U.S. aircraft provided the position of the single-engine floater plane. But he said U.S. tracking planes routinely pass along information to Peruvian authorities advertisement about suspicious aircraft in the northern jungle region bordering Colombia and Brazil, a common route for cocaine trafficking. "A U.S. government tracking aircraft was in the area in support of the Peruvian intercept mission," he said in Lima. "As part of an agreement between the United States and Peru, the United States provides tracking information on planes suspected of smuggling illegal drugs in the region to the Peruvian air force."
      Between 1994 and 1997, Peru shot down about 25 suspected drug planes on their way to Colombian cocaine refineries from coca-growing regions in Peru's Amazon. The actions were the result of former President Alberto Fujimori's tough anti-narcotics policies in an effort to reducing trafficking in coca leaf, the raw material used to make cocaine. In July, Fujimori said the country would use its fleet of 18 Russian-made Sukhoi-25 fighter jets in the anti-drug fight. The planes were originally bought after a brief border war with Ecuador in 1995. Haskell said Kevin Donaldson grew up in Peru. Their group runs a theological seminary, schools, a camp and a center for pregnant women.       ^top^
click to enlarge 
Jim and Roni Bowers (Click on image to enlarge)
Jim and Roni, March 2001
Jim & Roni Bowers, March 2001
Bowers family, March 2001 
Jim, Cory, Roni, Charity Bowers, March 2001
click to enlarge
Kevin and Barbara Donaldson (Click on image to enlarge)
Bowers houseboat 
The Bowers' houseboat
Donaldson family
Donaldson family, March 2001
Missionary Tragedy in Peru — Second ABWE report.       ^top^

2001 April 21 05:15 UT — Jim and Roni Bowers and children were on a return trip from the Peru-Brazil border where they were taking care of Charityís visa situation.  Due to the distance, they had arranged for Kevin Donaldson to fly them in the ABWE plane, a Cessna 185.  All regulations were followed, such as a flight plan, remaining in Peruvian airspace, and maintaining contact with the flight towers.  The plane had recently been refurbished and was in top condition and was well marked.

Just prior to 11:00 a.m. local time, Kevin radioed the Iquitos tower with his position.  Shortly thereafter, they were intercepted by a military plane; shots were fired.  Kevinís two legs were injured and Roni and Charity were shot and killed. Kevin was able to land the float plane on the river, saving his life and the lives of Jim and Cory.

Jim was able to get Roni and Charity unbuckled and out of the plane.  Cory jumped out of the plane and Kevin was able to pull himself out.  They were rescued by a Peruvian in a dugout canoe and were taken to the clinic in the town of Pevas.  Many of the believers from the church came to meet them and to help them, getting Cory into dry clothes and assisting in any way they could.

As of this writing, Kevin is still in the hospital in Pevas.  The Peruvian military, along with some US personnel, evacuated Jim and Cory to Iquitos, along with the bodies of Roni and Charity.

The US consulate and embassy in Lima have been actively involved and very helpful. They are in touch with Jim, as well as the families in the US. They were scheduled to arrive late Friday night in Iquitos, along with Peruvian military personnel in order to investigate the incident fully.  We are confident that they will come out with a complete statement of the incident after investigations are completed.

It is Jimís intention to return with his son Cory to Muskegon, MI, as soon as possible, where the funeral will take place. The family would appreciate your prayers for them at this time of loss.


Missionary Tragedy in Peru - First ABWE report.

2001 April 20 20:30 UT — Word has been received from Iquitos, Peru that an ABWE plane was shot down by a military plane while traveling from the Peruvian border to the city of Iquitos. The ABWE plane, piloted by veteran missionary Kevin Donaldson, was able to make an emergency landing. Pilot Donaldson was severely wounded in the leg and missionary passengers Roni Bowers and her infant daughter Charity were both killed, according to confirmed reports. On board also were Roniís husband Jim and son Cory both of whom were reportedly not injured.


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