Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'Difficult' search for Kiwi lost in PNG

Searchers are looking for three people after their helicopter went missing in Papua New Guinea. File photo / Richard Robinson
Searchers are looking for three people after their helicopter went missing in Papua New Guinea. File photo / Richard Robinson

A New Zealander and two Australians are missing after the helicopter they were in is believed to have crashed in Papua New Guinea's least populated region yesterday.

The Bell 206 Helicopter, operated by aviation charter service Hevilift, was reported missing about 4.30pm when it was somewhere near the town of Wabag in the mountainous Enga Province.

New Zealand Defence Force Papua New Guinea advisor Lieutenant Colonel Richard Taylor said there were many commercial helicopter operators in the area at the moment helping to set up the country's general elections.

"There's a lot of helicopters up there flying ballot boxes and election officials around."

The NZDF has three helicopters operating in the south-west of the country, and the Australians have four, but these were not involved in the search at this stage, Mr Taylor said.

"There are quite a number of commercial helicopters operating in that area so we're anticipating that some of those will be able to be used for searching for the wreckage but to the best of my knowledge there's been no word received from the crash site that would indicate survivors."

Mr Taylor said it would be a difficult search.

"It's quite rugged, you could probably describe it as a jungle version of the Southern Alps, very mountainous with a number of flat plateaux areas scattered around where the population centres tend to be."

Hevilift confirmed it was one of its helicopters that was missing.

A spokesman for the company said several of its other aircraft were in the air looking for the missing chopper.

New Zealand's Deputy High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea said the commission was still trying to confirm the identities of those on board.

- APNZ

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