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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 25) – Passengers on board an Air Fiji flight were treated for minor injuries and trauma after their plane went off the runway and landed in a drain.

The incident caused police to call for greater security measures at rural airstrips to prevent crowds hindering any rescue effort during accidents.

The Air Fiji aircraft landed at the Savusavu airstrip at about 4 p.m. yesterday.

[PIR editor’s note: Savusavu is located on the south coast of Fiji’s Vanua Levu island.]

It veered off the runway into a drain while approaching the airport after landing.

A medical spokesman from the Savusavu Hospital confirmed the 10 passengers were treated for minor injuries while one was kept at the hospital for observation.

He said a pregnant woman who was a passenger was admitted for observation. We want to monitor the mother and baby’s condition for at least a night before we can discharge them. The other passengers were sent home after examination.

They were all brought to the hospital as some had also suffered from shock while others were treated for minor injuries, the spokesman said.

Air Fiji chief executive Sialeni Vuetaki said the company had started its internal investigations into the matter.

He said the airlines preliminary investigations had indicated that the incident was not caused by any fault to the aircraft.

Were investigating the incident and are glad all passengers and crew are safe. The incident has been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Fiji Islands, Mr. Vuetaki said.

Savusavu police also stated that a team was sent to the airstrip to investigate the matter and upon arrival had to clear the crowd that had run onto the runway.

That’s dangerous and security needs to be tightened at airstrips in rural areas because people in such areas don’t really care about the dangers except to see what happened, an officer said.

Witnesses echoed similar sentiments saying a huge crowd gathered on the runway when the incident happened.

Transport Minister Tomasi Vuetilovoni said he was aware of the incident but had not received a report from the company or his officials.

But I am expecting the report and an investigation will be carried out by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Fiji Islands team, Mr. Vuetilovoni said.

May 25, 2006

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