Officials investigate Thai plane accident

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A Swiss passenger was among those seriously injured in Bangkok Airways crash Wednesday.

Bangkok -- Aviation officials were investigating Wednesday how a commercial jet skidded off a runway on a Thai tourist island and crashed into an old control tower, killing its pilot and injuring dozens.

The captain of Bangkok Airways flight PG 266 died after landing the 70-seater ATR-72 on Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand during rainy weather on Tuesday afternoon.

The government said 42 people were injured in the crash, while Bangkok Airways said four passengers -- one Italian, two British and one Swiss -- were seriously hurt along with the co-pilot.

Most of the injured were European tourists aboard the flight from the southwestern town of Krabi, also a popular holiday destination.

Normal flight operations resumed at the Bangkok Airways-owned Samui airport at 13h30 on Wednesday after state investigators said they had recovered the damaged plane's black box flight data recorder.

Airport workers drained fuel from the wreckage of the plane before removing it to allow flights to reopen.

Officials from the airline and the aircraft manufacturer were both flying out to inspect the site after flights resumed on Wednesday afternoon.

"We found the black box still inside the aircraft last night and investigations have already begun with two witnesses, a control tower official and a fire fighter," said an official from the transport ministry's civil aviation department.

"The co-pilot is still in hospital... so we have to wait until the doctor allows him to talk (to us)," he said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasattong-Osoth said in a statement that he would visit the crash site and a local hospital where eight passengers continue to be treated for injuries.

"I would like to, again, express my sympathy towards our passengers and crew who have been affected from the unfortunate accident of PG 266 in Samui, particularly my deepest condolence to the family of Captain Chatchai Punsuvan, who lost his life in this accident," said Puttipong.

The pilot had worked with Bangkok Airways since 1990, and had flown that model of aircraft since 1995.

"While the investigation of this accident remains underway, Bangkok Airways' management reassures that we continue to take safety as the priority in all aspects of our operations," Puttipong said.

The airline statement said those who suffered minor injuries had all gone to hotels.

French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, which built the plane, said it would send a team to visit the site and provide "full technical assistance" to the investigation.

Bangkok Airways said the company had owned the ATR-72 aircraft since July 2001 and it was insured for USD 250 million (CHF 265 million).

AFP / Expatica

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