Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Four Australians killed in air crash



FOUR expatriates were killed in a plane crash yesterday afternoon on Misima Island in Milne Bay, The National reports.

The pilot is seriously injured and has been admitted into hospital.

Reports received yesterday said a chartered Trans-Air Ltd aircraft, with five Australians, including the pilot, en route from Port Moresby to Bwagaoia, crash-landed in nearby sago palm trees as it over-shot the runway.

Misima police chief Sgt Moses Hilibobo told The National bad weather might have caused the accident as it was raining heavily around 4pm when the crash occurred.

He said technical fault had not been ruled out as eye witnesses reported seeing flames coming out from the plane as it was attempting to land.

Hilibobo, who was among the first at the scene, including emergency health personnel from the Misima District Hospital, said the aircraft had its wheels and wings ripped off when it landed.

Hilibobo said: “The passengers were badly burnt when we arrived at the scene, because the main body of the plane caught fire immediately with the passengers still trapped inside.

“The dead were taken to the morgue while the pilot was immediately treated for burns and other injuries. He was conscious when we rescued him from the swamps.

“He might have been thrown off the plane when it crashed,” Hilibobo added.

Meanwhile, Southern region police commander Chief Supt Jerry Frank said in Port Moresby last night that according to the provincial police commander’s office in Alotau, a crash investigation team would be dispatched to Misima today.

Frank said the Australians were on their way to international waters off Misima to resume duties aboard ocean liners via tugboats.

Acting director of Civil Aviation Authority Safety Wilson Segati also confirmed news of the air crash but did not give details.

Works and Transport Minister Don Polye said he was briefed about the accident and was “very sad that lives have been lost in the crash”.

“It is very distressing news.

“I am told that it is a small Cessna jet owned by Trans-Air, and was on a charter run.

“An investigation is underway and I cannot comment further until we get more details,” Polye said.

Meanwhile, Australian Reef Pilots (ARP) told AAP one of their staff members died in yesterday’s crash.

The other Australians on board were not working with ARP.

Acting chief executive officer for PNG Ports Jerome Peniasi told AAP the Australians on the plane were working with ARP near Misima Island.

“We are aware of the accident but we still do not have much information as communication has been difficult,” he said.

ARP chief executive officer Craig Southerwood issued a short statement yesterday evening.

“ARP is shocked and saddened by the loss of one of our marine pilots in a chartered plane crash in PNG this afternoon,” he said. 

“Chairman Don McLay is visiting with the family of our deceased workmate and friend to offer them the company’s sympathy and any assistance at this terrible time.

“We are all shattered by this tragedy.”

ARP provides help for vessels navigating in difficult shipping lanes and provides emergency and temporary port pilots and marine consultancy.

According to ARP’s website, the company has been involved in marine pilotage through Queensland’s shipping channels for more than 100 years.



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