PNG helicopter crash: Bodies found

By Hayden Donnell

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

Search teams have found the bodies of a New Zealand man and two Australians whose helicopter crashed in a remote area of Papua New Guinea a week ago.

New Zealander Antony Annan, 49, and two Australians, Russell Aitken, 42, and Emmett Fynn, 36, were found dead at the wreck of their Bell 206 helicopter near the Purari River around 3pm (NZ time).

Paul Booij, managing director of the helicopter's operator Hevilift, said the deaths were devastating.

"Unfortunately our worst fears were realised this morning.

"This is a harrowing time for everyone... We are devastated that this has happened. Every one of us had hoped to find them alive and now we have to deal with the reality."

The helicopter was reported missing at about 4:30pm last Friday.

The first sign of its wreck was found yesterday, when a villager discovered some pieces of plastic labelled "fly away kit" in a stream.

A helicopter tailboom was seen from the air this morning and search teams found the crashed wreckage about six hours later.

There was low cloud and reduced visibility at the time of the crash and the pilots were flying on sight rather than instruments.

Hevilift Group Managing Director Colin Seymour would not comment on company protocol for flying in dangerous conditions.

Mr Booij said the company would cooperate with authorities and conduct its own investigation into what caused the crash.

"We can assure everyone that no one wants to know what happened more than we do. We operate in rugged terrain and challenging conditions in Papua New Guinea and we have very strict protocols within our operations."

Seven helicopters were involved in the search for the missing men.

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