14 Oct 2011

NZ pilot survives PNG plane crash

9:00 pm on 14 October 2011

Airlines PNG has revealed there was an emergency situation on board a plane co-piloted by a New Zealander before it crashed in Papua New Guinea.

The Dash-8 with 32 people on board crashed during a violent storm near the town of Madang on the north coast about 5pm on Thursday.

Twenty-eight passengers were killed, but one survived, along with three crew members including New Zealand co-pilot Campbell Wagstaff, aged 30, of Te Kuiti and the Australian pilot.

Airlines PNG says the crew attempted to conduct a controlled emergency landing at Madang airport but the plane broke up on impact with part of the fuselage catching fire.

All who died are believed to be Papua New Guinean nationals.

The plane had been on a scheduled flight. It is reported that most of the passengers were parents travelling to Madang for a university graduation ceremony.

Papua New Guinea's Accident Investigation Commission has begun an inquiry and has grounded Airlines PNG's fleet of 12 planes until further notice.

Commission chief executive David Inau says stormy weather conditions at the time of the crash are a factor investigators will look at.

A spokesperson for the airline, Erastus Kamburi, says the company is mourning with the entire nation.