Kiwi survivor of PNG crash named

By Alanah Eriksen, Alanah May Eriksen

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The New Zealand man who was the only survivor of a plane crash in Papua New Guinea in which three Australians and another Kiwi died has been named.

Kelby Cheyne, 25, originally from Dunedin but now living in Toowoomba, inland from Brisbane, survived Tuesday's crash, Toowoomba's The Chronicle newspaper reported.

Mr Cheyne was thrown clear when the Cessna Citation slid off a wet runway, crashed into trees and burst into flames on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Cheyne's stepmother, Carmela, told The Chronicle of her family's relief after learning he was alive, despite initial fears all occupants of the plane had been killed.

The family was desperate to speak to him.

"There's always the thing in the back of your mind - what if they've got it wrong?"

The family had heard mixed reports about what actually happened during the crash. One account was he was pulled from the wreckage by villagers and in another he was thrown from the cockpit just before the plane exploded.

"Once they get to him and we hear his voice and we know it's him, then we'll be OK," Mrs Cheyne said.

The crash happened on Misima Island, in Milne Bay Province on Papua New Guinea's southern tip.

The domestic charter flight for Australian Reef Pilots had been reported overdue from Port Moresby.

Among the dead is a New Zealand sales manager for Medevac company International SOS.

He had dual citizenship between New Zealand and another country but had been living in Sydney temporarily while a visa was organised for him to live and work in Papua New Guinea.

A spokesman for the company said it had contacted immediate family in New Zealand, and was trying last night to reach relatives around the world.

Regional managing director Michael Gardner said: "At this very difficult time we are shocked and deeply saddened, our thoughts are with our colleagues' family and friends, as well as with the families of those affected by the accident."

Mr Cheyne who had heavy bruising but was conscious, was flown to Port Moresby yesterday afternoon

It is understood he was then flown to Australia for further treatment.

The other three men who died were Australian, and included Trans Air owner Les Wright, 56.

He was also the owner of defunct Australian company Transair, which operated a plane that crashed at Lockhart River, North Queensland, in 2005 killing 15 people.

Also killed on Tuesday was Australian Darren Moore, a flight operations inspector for Papua New Guinea's Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Herald has been told.

The other victim was marine pilot Chris Hart, 61, from Sydney. He was working for the Brisbane company Australian Reef Pilots and was to guide a ship through the Great Barrier Reef.

It was not known last night who was flying the plane with the New Zealand pilot.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Marion Crawshaw, flew to Misima Island with Australian officials yesterday and was working to bring the dead New Zealander's body home.

- With NZPA and AAP

- NZ Herald

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