Few clues for NZer missing in PNG
Sun, 08 Jul 2012 6:05p.m.
By Brook Sabin
Hopes are rapidly fading for a New Zealander and two Australians missing in dense jungle in Papua New Guinea, after their helicopter is believed to have crashed.
3 News has spoken to the man co-ordinating the rescue, who revealed local villagers may have a clue to the aircraft's whereabouts.
Somewhere in the thick inhospitable jungle, their helicopter has gone down.
Today, seven other helicopters were on a desperate search to find the New Zealander and two Australians onboard.
Michael Findlater recently returned from flying in the area.
“It's essentially tiger country,” says the helicopter pilot. “It's high tree canopies, extremely high mountains, high temperatures. The aircraft is at the edge of its performance a lot of the time.”
The helicopter, a Bell 206 had just left a drilling site in Mount Hagen on Friday afternoon.
Five minutes later, it broadcast a mayday call.
But searchers have been unable to pick up the helicopter's emergency locator beacon.
“If they go into a high tree canopy, depending on how the accident came about, the tree canopy can actually fold back over relatively quickly in a short time, and unless they have satellite tracking in the aircraft it can actually be very, very difficult to locate it,” says Mr Findlater.
A team of ground searchers reached a village near Mount Hagen today.
They got one tenuous clue.
“The information we've got from the villagers is they may have heard an aircraft flying past, but we cannot tell whether it's the one we are looking for,” says search and rescue co-ordinator Andrew Tukana. "They didn't hear a crash – just the aircraft flying past."
But that could well have been one of the helicopters involved in the search.
Australian authorities have now been asked to help.
This surveillance aircraft from Darwin has arrived at the scene, and will search until nightfall.
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