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PORT MORESBY, PNG (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 24) – Investigation have begun into the cause of an aircraft crash that killed both the pilots early this week.

The Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), the owner of the Twin Otter that crash landed near Tabubil in Western Province on Tuesday, yesterday sent in its fleet captain, operations manager and chief engineer to the crash site for preliminary investigations.

Investigators from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will travel to the accident site tomorrow for their investigations.

The two pilots in the aircraft died in the crash while the flight attendant and eight passengers suffered injuries and were treated at a clinic set up at the crash site.

The flight attendant and another passenger were taken to the Tabubil mining hospital where they were treated and released.

The bodies of the two pilots — named as captains Chris Hansen, 37, and Richard West, 40, both of New Zealand — are being held temporarily at Tabubil hospital but will be moved to another hospital for coronial investigations.

Captain Hansen had worked for MAF for 10 years — seven of them in PNG — and Captain West had flown with the company for 11 years, three of them in PNG.

They were travelling from Tabubil in Western Province to Wopagen in the Telefomin District of Sandaun Province when the accident occurred.

The eight passengers and cabin crew survived the crash and walked to the nearby village of Binim.

MAF said in a statement yesterday a helicopter and several MAF aircraft were dispatched to the accident site and a clinic was set up at Agali with doctors flown in to attend to the crash victims.

The family members of both pilots will be flown to Mt Hagen for debriefing and counselling, and will attend a memorial service set for Saturday.

CAA chief executive officer Andrew Ogil said the cause of the crash would not be known for some time.

He, however said both MAF and the CAA were determined to establish possible causes or factors leading to the crash.

Mr Ogil expressed sorrow over the deaths of the two pilots. "We are devastated by this news but we know that God is sovereign and that His Holy Spirit will sustain," he said in a message posted on the MAF website.

MAF chief operating officer Mark Emerson said from Cairns the two captains were highly qualified, professional and dedicated pilots who had been based in Telefomin with their wives and children.

"It was more than a job to build up flying hours, their hearts were in it to meet the needs of the people," Mr Emerson said.

MAF is a Christian mission which regularly flies into over 300 of the remotest airstrips of PNG, providing a lifeline for isolated churches and communities.

February 25, 2005

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