AUSSIES, KIWIS REFUSE TO HELP IN FIJI PLANE CRASH INQUIRY

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb 4) – A plea for technical assistance in the inquiry into last week's plane crash has been rejected by Australia and New Zealand.

This was confirmed by Civil Aviation Authority of the Fiji Islands chief executive, Netava Waqa, who said CAAFI's Australian and New Zealand counterparts had verbally informed them of their refusal.

"It seems like their refusal to assist has something to do with the military takeover but they have not given a straight answer yet," he said.

"They may give other reasons like a lack of manpower so that is the reason why we are waiting for an official notice before we determine the next course of action."

"We really want to appoint someone independent so all parties involved in the incident are investigated properly," he said.

Mr Waqa said Australia and New Zealand's refusal to help could affect their investigations into the crash.

"Investigations in aviation are conducted to determine the cause and how we may improve rather than placing the blame on others," said Mr Waqa.

A local pilot and two Canadian tourists died after their Cessna 172 aircraft, registration DQ SKY, crashed in a mountainous region, outside Lautoka during a sightseeing tour of the area on Thursday. Mr Waqa said they were still waiting to be served with official notices to confirm that their pleas for assistance had been rejected.

He said they hoped for the assistance to ensure the investigation was carried out in fairness to all parties involved.

Mr Waqa said the authority wanted to ensure that an independent investigation was carried out all on parties involved, including CAAFI.

He said as the regulatory body, CAAFI also had to be investigated to ensure such accidents did not reoccur.

"During these investigations, all parties involved from the operator to CAAFI as the regulator has to be investigated."

"It is a very intensive investigation that will also be conducted on CAAFI to see on ways to improve our monitoring operations," he said.

But Mr Waqa said despite the rejection, they were already in the process of appointing a lead investigator to carry out the investigations into the crash.

He said they hoped to finalise the appointment as early as next week to ensure proper investigations into the tragedy got underway.

Mr Waqa also said a team of CAAFI officials had travelled to Abaca yesterday morning to carry out interviews of all eyewitnesses before moving to the crash site.

"A team is already on the ground carrying out interviews and will be visiting the crash site to inspect the wreckage," he said.

"The Minister for Transport was briefed of the situation on Friday and once the investigations are complete, all findings would be forwarded to him," said Mr Waqa.

The aircraft, owned by Advanced Aviation Training Academy, was on a sightseeing tour of the area when it crashed into the mountains about 20 kilometres from Abaca Village at about 4pm.

The trio, the aircraft's pilot, Frederick Mitchell and a Canadian couple, whose identities have been withheld, died in the crash.

The bodies of the three deceased persons were recovered in a joint operation by police, military, the National Fire Authority and a group of Abaca villagers on Friday afternoon.

Only part of the engine, a wheel and the aircraft's wings were visible at the scene as most of the aircraft was completely burnt.

Eyewitnesses stated that the aircraft had circled the mountain range three times before it plunged into the cliff side.

Police forensic officers that visited the scene managed to recover the three bodies along with the pilot's identification card, a camera and a pair of sunglasses.

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