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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All 22 people killed in Cambodia crash

PHNOM DAMREY, Cambodia — Search teams reached the site of a plane crash on a remote Cambodian mountain Wednesday and said all 22 people on board were killed.

A helicopter spotted the wreckage about 1,640 feet up Phnom Damrey — Elephant Mountain — in southern Cambodia, ending a two-day search through treacherous jungle and monsoon weather by 1,000 soldiers and police.

The Russian-made An-24 plane crashed during a storm Monday while flying to the southern coastal town of Sihanoukville. It had taken off from Siem Reap, the country's main tourist hub and site of the famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Thirteen South Korean and three Czech tourists were on board, along with five Cambodian airline employees and the Uzbek crew chief, officials said.

"This is a tragedy no one should have to experience," Prime Minister Hun Sen said at a news conference in Kampot province, where the plane went down.

More than a dozen family members of the South Korean passengers had traveled to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, late Tuesday to await news of their relatives.

The bodies were being flown to Phnom Penh for identification, said Nhim Vanda, a vice chairman of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

Sith Sakal, head of security at Cambodia's Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the plane's flight data recorder had been retrieved and would be sent to Russia for analysis.

At the crash site, a woman's purse and some shoes lay strewn amid the blue and white plane parts.

"I just felt greatly heartbroken to see the bodies," said Horn Ratha, a Cambodian army helicopter pilot involved in the search effort.

The plane was operated by PMT Air, a small Cambodia airline that began flights in January from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, a new route launched to spur the country's burgeoning tourism industry.

Sar Sareth, the airline's director, said Tuesday that he did not know what year the crashed plane was built, but that it was in "good condition" before taking off from Siem Reap.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the storm was likely to blame for the crash, rather than technical problems.

South Korean aviation authorities will hold safety inspections on PMT Air and six other foreign airlines in the coming days, said an official with the South Korean Civil Aviation Safety Authority. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

PMT Air has six roundtrip flights a week between Siem Reap and the South Korean cities of Incheon and Busan, according to the airline's Web site.

The last major air accident in Cambodia was in 1997, when a Vietnam Airlines TU-134B crashed while trying to land during a rainstorm at Phnom Penh International Airport, killing more than 60 people.
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Official: No Survivors in Cambodia Crash

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, shakes hands with Shin Hyun-suk, South Korean Ambassador to Cambodia before a meeting at Kampot province's headquarters, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 26, 2007. Cambodia's prime minister said Tuesday a passenger plane likely crashed into a mountain and expressed little hope for survivors, just a day after the flight between two of the country's most popular tourist destinations went missing. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (Heng Sinith - AP)

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 10:36 PM


KAMPOT, Cambodia -- Search teams confirmed Wednesday there were no survivors from a plane that crashed in southern Cambodia with 22 people aboard, including South Korean and Czech tourists, officials said.

The Russian-made An-24 aircraft operated by PMT Air crashed Monday during a storm while flying between Siem Reap _ site of the famed Angkor Wat temple complex _ and Sihanoukville on the southern coast.

"All have died. It is confirmed," Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

Sixteen South Korean and three Czech tourists were on board, as well as five Cambodian airline employees and a Russian co-pilot, officials said.

A helicopter spotted the crash site for the first time early Wednesday morning after some 1,000 soldiers and police mounted an urgent two-day search by land and air through treacherous jungle in rainy monsoon weather.

The plane's wreckage was high on a forested mountain northeast of Bokor Mountain in Kampot province, according to provincial Deputy Governor Khoy Khun Huor, who said he saw the crash site from a helicopter. He said the wreckage did not appear to have been on fire.

"The immediate step to be taken is to clear some forest for access," he said. "Helicopters now cannot land close to it."

All rescue teams have now been ordered to rush to the crash site, said Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

More than a dozen family members of some of the South Korean passengers arrived in Phnom Penh from Seoul late Tuesday to await news of the fate of their relatives.

Ly Thuch, a disaster management official, said the Cambodian government will pay for their accommodation while they are in the country.

PMT Air is a small Cambodia airline that began flights in January from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, a new domestic route launched by the government to spur the country's burgeoning tourism industry.

Sar Sareth, the airline's director, said Tuesday that he did not know what year the crashed plane was built, but added that it was in "good condition" before taking off from Siem Reap on Monday.

"It was always in compliance with flight technical and safety procedures. But we cannot say anything yet (about the cause) because information is on the flight recorder," he said.
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