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American Is Killed in Australia Plane Crash

Aviation: Expert on counterterrorism was one of six victims. His wife had given up her seat so others could take the flight.

October 01, 2002|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An American counterterrorism expert on his honeymoon and five other people were killed when a small plane crashed on an island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, officials said Monday.

Christopher Le Gallo, 30, had been married less than 10 days when the Piper Cherokee went down Thursday on Hamilton Island, about 370 miles north of Brisbane. Officials said his wife, Laura, 25, was not on board the plane because she had given up her seat so four members of a New Zealand family could fly together to nearby Lindeman Island.

Both the husband and wife worked as counterterrorism experts in the national and homeland security branch of Science Applications International Corp., a large, employee-owned research and engineering firm based in San Diego, said Ron Zollars, a spokesman for the firm.

Zollars said the Le Gallos had worked at the company's offices in McLean, Va., where the CIA is based.

Reports published in Australia said Christopher Le Gallo was the son of Andre Le Gallo, a business intelligence consultant in San Diego who said earlier this year that he is a former CIA agent who worked for Enron for five years before starting his own firm.

Christopher Le Gallo and Laura Koepfler were married Sept. 21 in Virginia and flew to Australia for their honeymoon, officials said. They said the couple had been scheduled to make the flight to Lindeman Island together, but Laura Le Gallo took an earlier flight so Kevin Bowles, 47, his wife, Joanne, 46, and their children Michael, 6, and Sophie, 9, could fly together on the six-seat airplane.

Witnesses said the single-engine plane apparently tried to turn back after lifting off from the Hamilton Island airport. The plane slammed into a low hill, killing the 27-year-old pilot, whose identity has not been released, and his five passengers.

The accident, which may have been caused by mechanical failure, was being investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Several relatives of the deceased and about 60 residents of the small resort island attended a memorial service Monday for the six who died.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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