Thursday, December 31, 2009

Aussie pilot Richard Leahy critical after PNG plane crash

By Ilya Gridneff and Peter Veness of AAP in Port Moresby

- Aussie pilot badly burnt in PNG crash
- Passengers were all PNG citizens
- Cause of plane crash not yet known

SIX people are dead and their Australian pilot is fighting for his life in hospital after their light plane crashed in Papua New Guinea.
Australian pilot Richard Leahy, who runs Kiunga Aviation, was flying the plane yesterday when the engine caught fire above the mountainous terrain of Morobe Province, on PNG's northwest coast.
Leahy, 68, survived the crash but is fighting for his life in a Brisbane hospital.
The plane had departed from Nadzab and was flying to the Baindoang airstrip when it crashed.
Nicholas Leahy, Richard's son, told AAP his father had reported "a loss of all pressure and total engine failure".
Richard Leahy is being treated for severe burns.
"He's in the trauma ward of the Royal Brisbane Hospital," Nicholas said.
"He's got third degree burns to 47 per cent of his body and he's got a fracture in his spine."
The passengers were all PNG citizens. There were four adults and two children.
The deadly crash comes five months after the Airline PNG Twin Otter tragedy in the Kokoda on August 11 that claimed 13 lives, including nine Australians on their way to trek the Kokoda Track.
Morobe provincial police commander Peter Guinness, police and medical officers were flown to the accident site yesterday to retrieve the remains and wreckage, The National newspaper reported.
"The plane was completely shattered and we could not do much."
No immediate cause for the crash has been offered because conditions in the area were considered fine.
"We will wait for the Civil Aviation Authority to do their investigation," he said.

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