HUMAN remains believed to be from the wreckage of the plane crash near the Kokoda Track on Aug 11 have been retrieved at the mountainous crash site near Hagutava village in the Kokoda rural local level government area.
A Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) team accompanied by Australian deputy high commissioner to PNG, John Feakes, flew to the crash site last Friday to verify claims by Hagutava villagers that they had found human remains at the site almost two months after the crash.
The Airlines PNG Twin Otter crash claimed 13 lives – nine Australians, three Papua New Guineans, including the female pilot, and a Japanese man.
The cause of the crash has not yet been established.
A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told The National that local villagers had handed over the remains to the team, which were then brought back to Port Moresby.
“The remains are now in RPNGC custody at the morgue and will be handled in accordance with the wishes of the victims’ families,” he said.
The spokesman did not disclose what exactly had been found by villagers at the site, but he thanked the local villagers for their help.
Mr Feakes’ visit to the crash site came after landowners Sally, Jack and Timothy Dadi from the crash area contacted The National last week, claiming to have found what appeared to be human remains.
“Ol yangpela mangi lo peles go raun lo kras hap na painim haphap bun na bodi blo man na poret na digim graun na planim ol igo bek,” they said in Tok Pisin, meaning: “Our youths went to the crash site and saw human remains but got scared and dug up the ground and buried them back where they found them.”
The National then contacted the Australian High Commission and Airlines PNG to verify the claims.
Airlines PNG declined to comment on the report as general manager Allen Tyson was said to be out of the country.
Meanwhile, the Dadi brothers have agreed to allow the crash site to be used by the Australian High Commission to erect a memorial to the victims.
“Mipela i lusim lo han blo big man blo Australia High Commission lo mekim memorial sait or cemetery so ol turis i kam bihain bai inap lo luksave lo dispela ol lain i bin lusim laip lo hia,” Timothy Dadi said. (We are willing to let the Australian High Commission to make a memorial site or cemetery so that tourists later on can remember their fellow countrymen and women who lost their lives here).
But they are also demanding compensation for environmental damage to their land, forest and water supply caused by the crash.
They claimed their only source of water supply that was built through AusAID funding in 2004 had been contaminated with human blood, aviation fuel and chemicals, which posed a health risk to them.
“Rotary Club came in and did the piping through to all the houses but we were told not to use that water after the crash and, now, we walk 5km to 10km to fetch clean water behind a mountain,” they said.
“Not only that, our forest has also been cut and our land for hunting and gardening destroyed.”
The landowners said they would also be approaching Melbourne-based trekking company No Roads Expeditions for assistance to restore their water supply, which they said would also benefit Kokoda trekkers.