Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Zealand pilot dies in helicopter crash in Papua

A New Zealand pilot has died in a helicopter crash in a remote Indonesian province.

Kershaw Aviation Group, a Queenstown-based aviation supply company, says 42-year-old Shri Rama Krishnan, of Auckland, was flying a six-seater Squirrel with two passengers on board on a routine food supply trip when the helicopter went missing yesterday morning.

The helicopter was on charter to the Indonesian arm of US mining company Freeport-McMoRan.

Searchers found the helicopter crash site today and confirmed all three aboard had died, news agencies Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press reported.

"Three passengers were found dead and were being taken to a hospital," Freeport Indonesia spokesman Ramdani Sirait said, adding they were two Freeport Indonesia contract workers and Mr Krishnan.

The Squirrel left the airfield at the mining town of Tembagapura at 8.12am local time, Kershaw Aviation Group said in a statement.

It was attempting to turn back after encountering bad weather, when the control tower lost contact at 8.30am.

Mr Krishnan was a very experienced pilot who had worked for the company for 12 months, Kershaw Aviation Group chief executive Josh Kershaw said.

He had travelled the route many times and he had extensive experience in similar environments.

"Two members of our senior management team are on their way to the province to work with authorities," Mr Kershaw said.

"Safety is our number one priority and we will also be conducting a full internal investigation into this incident."

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told NZ Newswire the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta was liaising with other agencies about Mr Krishnan.

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