7 Jul 2012

Helicopter still missing

10:39 pm on 7 July 2012

A search will resume on Sunday for a helicopter carrying a New Zealander and two Australians that has gone missing in Papua New Guinea.

The Bell 206 helicopter disappeared near Mount Hagen, in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands on Friday. The missing are all Hevilift employees.

No signals from the helicopter's emergency beacon have been picked up although a mayday call was made from the aircraft just before it went missing on Friday afternoon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it is providing consular assistance to the families involved.

The aircraft's operator, Hevilift, says there was reduced visability as the helicopter left the InterOil Drill Rig site and headed for Hou Creek to re-fuel. Hevilift said and the area where it went down may be thickly forested, making it difficult to pick up any distress signals.

A total of seven aircraft have been involved in the search, including a specially equipped plane flown in from Australia to do electronic surveillance.

Hevilift said it launched an immediate search with all available aircraft, but had to suspend the hunt due to deteriorating weather conditions on Friday night. Rescue teams resumed their search at first light on Saturday.

Hevilift said the three people on board were all its employees, and it is in contact with the families, AAP reports.

Hevilift provides specialised equipment and infrastructure for the transportation of oil, gas and mining personnel and equipment.