The National, Monday October 21st, 2013
By DOROTHY MARK
AN Air Niugini cargo plane ran off the Madang airport runway on Saturday morning, caught fire and crashed into a nearby creek, injuring its three-member crew.
The aircraft was believed to have over-loaded and could not ascend as it was nearing the end of the runway.
A National Aviation Corporation source in Madang confirmed the aircraft failed on take-off, ran to the end of the runway and crashed into the Meiro Creek.
People at the nearby Meiro Sepik settlement said they heard the sound of the crash and ran to the scene where they found the aircraft in the river with its right wing burning and giving out black smoke, which was visible throughout the town and nearby areas.
The newspaper was reliably informed that the aircraft’s three-member crew were taken to a private clinic in Madang for treatment to minor injuries.
It was also reported that people from the nearby settlement looted the plane’s cargo before police and fire fighters arrived at the crash site.
The runway was later cleared of obstruction but the Madang airport remained closed.
Air Nuigini confirmed in a brief statement that an ATR freighter aircraft was involved in the incident at 9.16am on Saturday.
It said the aircraft was making its final preparation for take-off when it ran off the runway and subsequently caught fire.
The airline said the three crew members were safe and there were no passengers onboard. The cargo onboard the freighter remained intact.
The National witnessed substantial damage caused to the aircraft’s right wing and engine due to the fire and its main frame which was submerged in the creek.
The aircraft was almost completed looted of its cargo of mainly cartons of cigarettes belonging to British American Tobacco (BAT).
Local authorities have warned people not to remove things from the craft or go near the crash site as it would hinder efforts to investigate the cause of accident.
On its Facebook page, Air Niugini, said it would cooperate with the investigation into the crash.
“Air Niugini advises that with reference to the incident in Madang, the airline is fully supporting the Accident Investigation Commission and will be providing whatever information to assist.”