Thu, Aug 06, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Investigations continue into Thai plane accident

AFP , BANGKOK

Aviation officials were investigating yesterday how a commercial jet skidded off a runway on a Thai tourist island and ploughed into an old control tower, killing its pilot and injuring dozens.

The captain of Bangkok Airways flight PG 266 died after landing the 70-seater ATR-72 on Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand during rainy weather on Tuesday afternoon.

The government said 42 people were injured in the crash, while Bangkok Airways said four passengers — one Italian, two British and one Swiss — were seriously hurt along with the co-pilot.

Most of the injured were European tourists aboard the flight from the southwestern town of Krabi, also a popular holiday destination.

Normal flight operations resumed at the Bangkok Airways-owned Samui airport at 1:30pm yesterday after state investigators said they had recovered the damaged plane’s black box flight data recorder.

Airport workers siphoned fuel from the wreckage of the plane before removing it to allow flights to reopen.

Officials from the airline and the aircraft manufacturer were both flying out to inspect the site.

“We found the black box still inside the aircraft last night and investigations have already begun with two witnesses — a control tower official and a fire fighter,” an official from the transport ministry’s civil aviation department said.

“The co-pilot is still in hospital … so we have to wait until the doctor allows him to talk [to us],” he said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasattong-Osoth said in a statement that he would visit the crash site and a local hospital where eight passengers continue to be treated for injuries.

The pilot had worked with Bangkok Airways for 19 years, and had flown that model of aircraft for the past 14 years.

“While the investigation of this accident remains underway, Bangkok Airways’ management reassures that we continue to take safety as the priority in all aspects of our operations,” Puttipong said.

The airline statement said those who suffered minor injuries had all gone to hotels.

French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, which built the plane, said it would send a team to visit the site and provide “full technical assistance” to the investigation.

Bangkok Airways said the company had owned the ATR-72 aircraft since July 2001 and it was insured for US$250 million.

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