Search continues for missing Kiwi in PNG helicopter crash
Sun, 08 Jul 2012 7:31a.m.
The search for a helicopter missing in Papua New Guinea with a New Zealand pilot on board will continue at first light this morning.
The Bell 206 helicopter, operated by Hevilift Ltd, went missing on Friday afternoon near Mt Hagen in PNG's Southern Highlands with two pilots and an aircraft engineer on board.
The helicopter was flying in low cloud with reduced visibility.
There were also two Australians on board. All are Hevilift employees.
Hevilift says a mayday call was broadcast about five minutes after the helicopter left a drill rig site at 3:25pm (local time).
It is believed they were on their way to refuel before returning to their Mt Hagen base.
Hevilift says the helicopter may be in a thickly forested area.
The company says seven helicopters will resume the search this morning, with several other rescue hoist-equipped helicopters on standby for when the plane and crew are found.
A specially-equipped fixed-wing plane from Australia will also conduct electronic surveillance in the search area.
Hevilift's managing director Paul Booij, who arrived in Mt Hagen yesterday, said the company was devastated that colleagues were missing.
"We are all doing everything we can and we are humbled at the response by others to assist us in the search," he said.
The company was in constant communication with the missing workers' families.
"I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through, it must be just harrowing. Everyone here, in this rescue, has their own families and we all know that we cannot let up in our efforts to locate our colleagues," Mr Booij said.
The Australian and Papua New Guinean defence forces, along with Australian search and rescue teams, ExxonMobil PNG and Hevilift clients were assisting in the search.
An official from the NZ High Commission in Port Moresby was talking to company representatives, local authorities and the man's family.
Three New Zealanders are understood to work for Hevilift in Papua New Guinea, and the company said it was in contact with their families.
In March another New Zealand pilot, Shri Rama Krishnan, 42, died in a helicopter crash in a remote Indonesian province while on a routine food supply trip.
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