On April 20, 2001, a Peruvian Air Force jet shot down a seaplane belonging to the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, mistaking it for drug-running craft. In the Cessna were ABWE missionaries to river villages in Iquitos, Peru: pilot Kevin Donaldson and the Bowers family—Jim, his wife, Roni, 35, and their children Cory, 5, and 7-month-old Charity. Roni and Charity were killed, and bullets shattered Donaldson's legs. The shootdown was part of a CIA-sponsored drug interdiction program. Despite calls for more oversight, the program resumed in August with no substantial changes. Deann Alford interviewed Bowers, 40, for CT. (See www.jimbowers.org.)
The shootdown program that killed Charity and Roni has resumed. Are you satisfied that another such tragedy is unlikely?
I could easily have gone on a crusade to try to change the future of drug interdiction in Peru. God did not lead me to do that. Although we learned of many "embarrassing" issues in the wake of the shootdown, I've moved on to plenty of other things in my life.
Did the two governments ever apologize for killing Roni and Charity?
Various officials from both countries voiced their sincere regrets and condolences to my family. Unfortunately, none of those who expressed their heartfelt words of sympathy were directly responsible for what happened.
Do any ABWE planes still fly in Peru?
No. Kevin has been our only pilot, and that was our only aircraft [in Peru] … I don't think it'd be smart right now to fly in that region.
Did Peru fulfill its promise to replace the plane?
No, but that should happen soon. Where the replacement aircraft will be used by ABWE is still undetermined.
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The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism has information about the tragedy in Peru.
Jim Bowers's website has more information and pictures.
CT's coverage of Jim Bowers and the plane shooting include:
Weblog: Anti-Drug Flight Program That Killed Missionary and Daughter Will Resume | U.S. to resume anti-drug flights with few changes since 2001 (Aug. 20, 2003)
Weblog: Peru Missionaries Get Money and 'Regret,' But No Apology (March 21, 2002)
Weblog: ABWE missionaries may sue government for Peru shooting (Feb. 26, 2002)
Fire in the Sky | Terrorism, drug wars, and international politics are just a few of the challenges confronting today's mission pilots. (February 4, 2002)
Flying Unfriendly Skies | Recent tragedy highlights courage, risks of mission aviators. (June 11, 2001)
Weblog: Pilot of Missionary Plane Partly Blamed for Shooting (June 05, 2001)
Hot Zone | Missionary aviators say their risky work at times puts them in mortal danger. (May 8, 2001)
Peru's Churches Want Inquiry into Why Missionary Plane Was Shot Down | Christian leaders lament "absurd, excessive use of force" that killed Roni Bowers and her infant daughter. (May 2, 2001)
Weblog: Missionaries Shot Down in Peru, Mother and Infant Killed (Apr. 23, 2001)
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