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Govt demands prompt rescue operation after Pakxe plane crash

The government has instructed all those concerned to accelerate the recovery operation following the crash of a Lao Airlines plane in Champassak province on Wednesday that killed all 49 people on board including 28 foreign nationals.

As of 2pm yesterday, 18 bodies had been recovered, according to Mr Bualy Phetsongkham, head of the committee secretariat in charge of the search and rescue operation.

( From left ) Dr Santisouk Simmalavong, Mr Phetsakhone Luang-aphay and Mr Somsamay Visounnalath address the press conference.

Relatives of a Chinese passenger and a flight attendant have confirmed the identity of two of the bodies recovered, while the nationalities of the remaining 16 bodies have yet to be determined, Mr Bualy said.

The ill fated ATR72-600 aircraft, carrying 44 passengers and five crew, departed Vientiane for Pakxe on Wednesday afternoon, plunging out of the sky a few kilometres from Pakxe airport.

It is thought the plane encountered heavy wind gusts whilst coming into land, hitting the riverbank and skidding into the Mekong in what was a high impact crash.

The Lao Airlines flight QV301 manifest listed 16 Lao nationals, seven French citizens, six Australians, five Thais, three South Koreans and three Vietnamese, as well as one person each from the US, China, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The crash was the worst in Lao aviation history. Lao Airlines has a good safety record, as acknowledged by the London-based Willis Aviation Insurance Company. The crash was the airline's first in 14 years after the last one occurred in 1999.

Addressing a press conference in Vientiane yesterday, the government expressed profound sadness and sympathy for the families of the victims and announced there would be a nationwide one-minute's silence in tribute to those who died.

Deputy Government Spokesman Mr Phetsakhone Luang-aphay told the press conference the precise cause of the tragedy was unknown. “Until the fact-finding committee gives confirmation, we won't speculate as to the cause,” he said.

He added that Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong had instructed authorities in charge to accelerate the rescue operation and investigation into the crash.

An expert team from France, including engineers from the aircraft manufacturer ATR, was scheduled to arrive in Laos yesterday afternoon to help investigate the cause of the accident and find the black box that records flight data, Lao Airlines Vice President Mr Somsamay Visounnalath said.

In a separate press conference on October 17, Lao Airlines President and CEO Dr Somphone Doungdara said initial indications were that extreme weather conditions caused the crash.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Dr Santisouk Simmalavong, said authorities from Vientiane, local authorities and a rescue team from Thailand were doing all they could to hasten the rescue operation.

However, he said the depth of water and fast flowing current in the Mekong where the wreckage is thought to be are making things difficult.

The bodies that have been recovered so far are currently lying in rest at Vat Chin temple in Pakxe district, awaiting funeral arrangements by relatives.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed Lao embassies and consulates abroad as well as international checkpoints to facilitate all necessary documents and waive fees for the relatives of victims entering Laos to collect the remains of the deceased.


By Times Reporters
(Latest Update October 19, 2013)

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