Bodies of Australian tycoon, board leave Congo after crash

7th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The bodies of Australian mining tycoon Ken Talbot and 10 colleagues killed in a plane crash last month were flown out of the Congo Wednesday after a tribute attended by President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

The 11 coffins were placed outside the Congress Palace in the capital Brazzaville for a ceremony attended by Congolese officials and diplomats from Australia, Britain, Cameroon, France and the United States.

Also present were representatives of Talbot's Sundance Resources mining company and its Congolese and Cameroon offshoots, Congo-Iron and Cam-Iron.

The iron-ore mining group lost its entire board on June 19 when a chartered twin turboprop went down in Congo's thick jungle during a trip to visit company operations and meet government officials.

The dead were six Australians, two Britons, two French and one US national.

"Profound sympathy and eternal regret" read a message on a wreath in front of the coffin of Talbot, who had been one of Australia's richest men.

Congo's mining minister Pierre Oba offered his "deep sympathy and sincere condolences" and said the Perth-based Sundance Resources team had been loyal partners in Congo's battle against under-development.

He read out the names and functions of the deceased, who included Sundance chairman Geoff Wedlock and chief executive Don Lewis.

The crash was days before 56 Congolese were killed when a train derailed on the line between Brazzaville and the Republic of Congo's second city Pointe-Noire on June 21.

"Hardly have we left the still fresh graves of our compatriots at Pointe-Noire ... and we must resume this sad ritual to cry for the 11 victims of this plane accident," Oba said.

The bodies were escorted to the Brazzaville airport and flown to Paris from where they would be sent to their countries of origin, foreign ministry official Daniel Owassa told AFP.

The wreckage of the plane was found two days after it crashed 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the small mining town of Yangadou, near the border with Gabon, following a search involving French military aircraft.

Talbot, whose investment company Talbot Group owned 18 percent of Sundance, had an estimated fortune of 965 million Australian dollars (840 million US), according to BRW business magazine which listed him as Australia's 32nd richest person.

© 2010 AFP

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