Debris from missing PNG chopper found

A Bell 206 helicopter belonging to Hevilift has gone missing in Papua New Guinea. Photo / Supplied
A Bell 206 helicopter belonging to Hevilift has gone missing in Papua New Guinea. Photo / Supplied

Debris from a helicopter carrying a New Zealand pilot that crashed in Papua New Guinea has been discovered in a stream.

The wreckage came from a container stored in the helicopter.

Captain Antony Annan, 49, of New Zealand, pilot captain Russell Aitken, 42, and engineer Emmett Fynn, 36, both of Australia, have been missing since their Bell 206 helicopter disappeared near the town of Wabag on Friday.

This morning a villager discovered debris from the helicopter, prompting a concentrated search effort in the area.

Ian McBeath from Hevilift, which operates the helicopters, said a villager was searching the waterways and rivers when he found some pieces of plastic that were clearly from a "fly away kit" that is usually kept in the boot of helicopters operated by Hevilift.

It is a plastic container that holds items like oil, rags and grease guns.

"It is obvious that it is part of the missing helicopter as it is consistent with the size and shape of the container we use for the kit and it has what we believe to be the outline of a 'H' in blue paint. We paint the helicopter registration number, in this case HCY, on each container," Mr McBeath said.

When the villager found the piece of debris he returned to Umasia Village on the Purari River, about 13 kilometres from where he found it.

When search headquarters got the news at around midday local time, an aircraft was dispatched to pick up the villager and have him show searchers where the debris was found.

When that position was determined, searching began upstream.

Another villager then flagged down the search helicopter, about a kilometre upstream, and provided a second piece of the same plastic container.

"The search effort was rapidly redeployed following this development," Mr McBeath said.

"Regrettably these broken pieces of container would most likely indicate that there has been a hard landing and the aircraft has broken up.

"Finding these pieces means the search area has narrowed significantly. However we still have a large section of countryside to cover."

Mr McBeath said there was very heavy rain in the area last night and this had most likely flushed the items out of the bush and into one of the dozens of rivulets which run into the Gipi Creek which runs into the Purari River.

"We now know that the area where we have been searching was the correct one and we can concentrate the ground search teams upstream of the location of where the debris was found, which is five miles (8km) from Bawata," Mr McBeath said.

- APNZ

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