The National – Tuesday, February 15, 2011
AN Australian pilot is missing, feared dead, after his helicopter crashed into the sea between Manus and Madang on Sunday.
Radio Australia reported last night that the wreckage had been found but there was no sign of the pilot who was identified as Lloyd Lester, 57, from Queensland.
He was the only person on board the helicopter when it crashed into the Bismarck Sea on Sunday morning.
His employer, Pacific Helicopters, told the radio service that the wreckage of the chopper has been spotted about 50km from Manus Island.
Floating among it was the helicopter’s emergency life raft, which had not been deployed.
A company spokesman said the state of the wreckage indicates a high-impact crash.
Pacific Helicopters said it would continue its search today for Lester in the hope that he may have swum to an island.
An air and sea search had started on Sunday morning.
Lester was flying from Madang to Manus Island and was the only person on board the helicopter when it crashed.
Pacific Helicopters managing director and Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Kela-Smith told Radio Australia that Lester was about 50km from Manus when he activated an emergency switch.
“He still might be alive. It’s a hope by me,” he said.
“I know he is a very fit person and there was a small nearby island he could have swum to, but at this stage it’s just a hope.”
Lester’s daughter, who wanted to remain unnamed, told News Limited: “He is an amazing father.”
“It’s just a waiting game. We’re hoping they don’t just give up on the search anytime soon.”
An Australian department of foreign affairs spokeswoman said the Australian high commission in Port Moresby was liaising with local authorities and Pacific Helicopters.