31 Dec 2009

Small plane destroyed beyond recognition in PNG crash that kills six

4:47 pm on 31 December 2009

The survival of a seriously injured pilot is being described as miraclous after a passing helicopter picked up a small plane's mayday signal just after it crashed into mountains in Papua New Guinea yesterday morning.

Six Papua New Guineans, including two children, died in the crash in Morobe Province.

Richard Leahy, who runs Kiunga Aviation, was flying the Cessna when an engine caught fire - it crashed a short time later.

Ted Pakii, of Air Services Limited, which provides search and rescue services, says the aircraft was burnt beyond recognition with only the tail remaining.

He says its a miracle Mr Leahy survived.

"After the helicopter medivaced the survivor, the pilot, to Lae, it returned with a recovery crew of medical and police staff. All the remaining occupants had perished, were casualties. There was no search, there was no rescue it was basically turned immediately into a recovery mission."

Mr Pakii says they have still to identify the dead passengers and an investigation into the cause of the crash is underway.