ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Divers returned to the water of a northern New Mexico lake Tuesday, where they have recovered fragments of human remains, bundles of cocaine, clothing and a laptop after a small plane crashed into the lake.
Authorities still aren't sure how many people were aboard when the airplane went down Sunday in Heron Lake, said state police spokesman Lt. Eric Garcia.
Divers have found membership cards but authorities are not releasing the names on those cards because they don't know if the items belong to whomever was on the plane, Garcia said.
The human remains were turned over to the state Office of the Medical Investigator.
Dive team members working 100 to 200 feet below the surface in extremely cold, murky water have recovered only small pieces of the plane — the largest about the size of a piece of paper, Garcia said.
Authorities do not know where the plane came from and have not anything with which to identify it, he said.
Wind and current have spread the debris, but 23 packages of cocaine have been found, Garcia said. He said he could not say how much the cocaine weighs.
The cold temperature of the lake means divers cannot stay down too long, Garcia said. As one team takes a break, another goes into the water. From time to time, they gather on the shore to assess what they have, he said.
Witnesses reported the plane crashed into Heron Lake, about 100 miles north of Santa Fe, at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Lake patrol officers subsequently found several packages of cocaine floating on the lake.
Air trafficking historically has been a significant issue for Southwest border states, state police Chief Robert Shilling said Monday.
In April 2010, state police called about the hard landing of a small plane outside Tucumcari in eastern New Mexico found a stash of more than 400 pounds of marijuana inside the plane and hidden in nearby bushes.
The largest problem now comes from ultra-light craft used in trafficking along the border, Shilling said.