(Photo by Joe Sherman)
Peru (MNN) ― Nine years after the Peruvian air force mistook a missionary flight for a drug run, the Central Intelligence Agency took responsibility for its part in the shoot-down of a plane which killed a missionary, Veronica Bowers, and her infant daughter, Charity.
The Bowers had taken a flight to pick up a visa in Brazil for Charity. Their son, Cory, then six, was also in the plane when the military jet opened fire on them in April 2001.
Jim Bowers, their son, Cory, and the pilot, Kevin Donaldson, survived the plane's crash into the Amazon.
The release of the current report shows that C.I.A. officers misidentified the missionary plane as a drug-smuggling aircraft and ordered the Peruvian military to shoot it down. Then, the investigation shows routine procedure violations by those involved with the secret counter-narcotics mission and a pattern of covering up their mistakes, ultimately misleading Congress during an inquiry shortly after the incident.
As a result, the U.S. government suspended the practice of advising foreign governments on shooting down planes over Peru and Colombia. They then discontinued the program.
The U.S. government paid compensation of $8 million to the Bowers family and the pilot.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said 16 current and retired agency officers received administrative punishments over the incident.
Jim and Roni Bowers began serving in Peru in 1995 as houseboat missionaries with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, or ABWE.
Their job was to creatively spread the gospel to 50 remote Peruvian villages accessible only via the Amazon River. For six years, they traveled in their floating home to towns along a 150-mile stretch of water: evangelizing, preaching, teaching and discipling. The Bowers held leadership training classes and seminars to equip local believers.
The work was disrupted, but ABWE is still active in Church planting, theological education, camp work, river evangelism, and aviation. A team of 15 is active throughout the rural and urban parts of Peru.
Meanwhile, Jim Bowers is rebuilding his life. Several years later, he authorized a book about the incident and remarried in December 2003. The new Bowers family lives in Raleigh, N.C., where they're planting a Hispanic church.