By BUSTIN ANZU and BARNEY ORERE PONDROS
PNG Air Services Ltd said late yesterday afternoon that “the cause of the accident is not known at this stage”.
However, it said that the air accident investigation commission (AIC) of the Transport Department had been notified and would be investigating.
Industry sources said this crash, which comes five months after the Airline PNG Twin Otter tragedy in the Kokoda on Aug 11 that claimed 11 lives, including the pilot and the first officer, raised serious concerns on aviation safety in PNG.
For Kiunga Aviation, this is reportedly the second major crash it has had in Morobe province.
In 1987, one of its aircraft, a Britten-Norman Islander, crashed and had two fatalities.
Yesterday morning, six people died instantly while the pilot survived when the small plane they were travelling in crashed in a remote mountain side of the rugged Sarawaget Range.
The passengers died upon impact between 6am and 6.30am at Bengun hillside, located between Gumbum and Tunam villages, about three hours walk away from Nawaeb district headquarters at Boana.
Rescue pilot Capt David Inau ferried the severely injured pilot to Lae before a medical evacuation was made to Australia.
Morobe provincial police commander Supt Peter Guinness and a police section as well as medical officers were flown to the accident site yesterday and retrieved the charred bodies.
Two children, one believed to be a toddler, were taken to the Angau Memorial Hospital.
“The plane was completely shattered and we could not do much.
“But we were able to retrieve the burnt bodies and take them to Lae.
“We will wait for the CAA to do their investigation,” Supt Guinness said.
The plane, owned by Kiunga Aviation in Lae, was on its way to Baindoang in the hinterlands of Nawaeb early yesterday morning.
Ward 17 councillor of the Erap Wain LLG David Gaman said they heard the plane flying over very early in the morning towards Baindoang and Kasanombe villages.
But “not very long after,” it returned and he and villagers “could hear loud noises coming from the plane and then the engine went off and it glided to a hill” covered with grass near their village.
“It crashed and then we saw smoke coming from the plane,” he said at the crash site.
Locals Martha Bob and Morbie Jonah, with the help of others, were able to help the pilot who was near the crashed plane calling out for help.
They took him to the Manolos Aviation helicopter.