Three bodies retrieved from Papua New Guinea plane crash site | world | Hindustan Times
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Three bodies retrieved from Papua New Guinea plane crash site

world Updated: Aug 13, 2009 16:10 IST

Rescue workers on Thursday retrieved the first three bodies after a plane carrying foreign tourists crashed into a Papua New Guinea mountain, killing all 13 on board.

Civil aviation authority chief Joseph Kintau said that rescuers combing thick jungle had "pieced together" three sets of remains following Tuesday's crash which killed nine Australians, three Papua New Guineans and one Japanese.

"The team has pieced together three bodies before lunchtime today," Joseph Kintau told news agency AAP.

"Work is still going on, there is a lot of work going on at the site, but conditions are very difficult," he added.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said officials had spent three to four hours hiking to the crash site, which was at an altitude of 5,500 ft (1,676 metres) near the tourist town of Kokoda.

"A plane crash is always a tragedy. A plane crash which affects so many people, killing so many young people embarking on what has become a national pilgrimage, becomes an even deeper tragedy," Rudd told Australia's parliament.

The tourists were preparing to hike the Kokoda Track, which traces the site of a bloody World War II campaign fought between Australian and Japanese troops.

Airlines PNG meanwhile defended the flying record of its pilots, saying the woman behind the controls had been flying with the company for four years.

"We have a very vigorous check and training system by command pilots who have spent decades flying in those regions and on those types (of planes)," said Simon Wild, chief executive of Airlines PNG's parent company Skytrans.

"(They are) certainly some of the most experienced pilots in the world on those types of aircraft on that terrain," he told public broadcaster ABC.

He said that the airline was audited at least six times a year by local authorities and on another half-a-dozen occasions by major multinational carriers to ensure they "exceeded" required safety standards.