NZ co-pilot suffered just bruises in crash that killed 28

By Elizabeth Binning

The Dash-8 aircraft struck trouble as it approached Madang airport. Photo / Thinkstock
The Dash-8 aircraft struck trouble as it approached Madang airport. Photo / Thinkstock

A Kiwi pilot walked away with bruises from a plane crash that claimed 28 lives in Papua New Guinea, his father said yesterday.

First Officer Campbell Wagstaff is recovering at home in Australia after the Airlines PNG plane he was co-piloting crashed near Madang late on Thursday.

Mike Wagstaff of Te Kuiti told the Herald he spoke to his son on Saturday night.

"He was doing well, he's only got a bit of bruising. He's an extremely lucky young man."

He added that his son was "checked over" but did not need hospital treatment and was now recovering at his home in Tasmania.

It is not clear when or if the 40-year-old, who has more than 2500 hours' flight experience, will return to flying.

He had been co-piloting the Dash-8 aircraft with Australian captain Bill Spencer when they struck trouble as they approached Madang airport.

An airline spokesman said that the crew attempted to conduct a controlled emergency landing but the aircraft broke up as it hit the ground and part of the fuselage caught fire.

Only Mr Wagstaff, Mr Spencer, a flight attendant and a single passenger survived.

The flight attendant, Kapi Eria, is recovering in hospital in Port Moresby, while the passenger, who is from Malaysia, is expected to be released from hospitalsoon.

Both Mr Wagstaff and 64-year-old Mr Spencer were flown home to Australia on Saturday on a Medevac flight.

Mr Spencer's son-in-law Conal Hanna told the Brisbane Times the captain was surrounded by his immediate family as doctors at the Royal Brisbane Hospital assessed his injuries, which are believed to include a fractured leg.

Mr Hanna said Mr Spencer thought he was going to die as the plane plunged towards the ground.

"He's distraught. He'll recover from his injuries but he's very traumatised by what's happened. He told us he now knows what it feels like to die. He thought as the plane was going down, 'This is it'."

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from the wreckage and will be sent to Australia for assessment.

The airline said an investigation into what went wrong would be "wide-ranging" and include looking at the bad weather in the area at the time of the crash, fuel, and any possible midair fire or mechanical problems.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 25 Jul 2014 11:50:18 Processing Time: 491ms