Tourist plane crash in Papua New Guinea leaves thirteen dead

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thirteen people have died after an Airlines PNG plane crashed in Papua New Guinea. The plane was carrying two local pilots as well as nine Australian, one Japanese and one Papua New Guinean passengers.

The Twin Otter had been trying to land at Kokoda yesterday as Airlines PNG Flight CG4684, but had aborted once already. About ten minutes before it was due to land from its second approach it disapeared. The crash site was located today and is so inaccessable that two policemen were dropped into the jungle in order to hike to the scene and seek survivors. The search had been hampered by the same bad weather that had caused the aborted landing.

Australian helicopter pilot David Inau has flown over the crash scene and commented that the plane appears to have "impacted head first into a sheer cliff face". The area is described Papuan Civil Aviation Authority head Joseph Kintau as "very, very difficult terrain".

The tourists had been intending to hike along the Kokoda Trail, a route used by Australian soldiers fighting the Japanese during the second world war. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that "There is a horrible tragedy involved when families send off their loved ones for what they expect to be the experience of a lifetime only for it to turn into a tragedy such as this." The Australian military assisted in searching for the aircraft.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare commented on his own "great sadness" over the crash and promised a full investigation. "I have requested the ministers of the various responsible authorities to commence investigations into the accident and to furnish a report to cabinet," said Somare.

The airline has also released a statement describing the pilots as "highly experienced" and commented that "Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected at this very difficult time."