PHUKET - Investigators searched Monday through charred remains of a plane that crashed and killed 89 people - mostly foreigners - on Thailand's resort island of Phuket, while an airline official said wind shear may have doomed the flight.
Rescue workers survey the site of a plane crash at Phuket's airport September 17, 2007. A budget airliner filled with foreign tourists crashed on the Thai resort island of Phuket on Sunday, killing 89 people as it broke up and burst into flames while trying to land in heavy rain, officials said. [Reuters]
An unofficial list compiled by the Thai Foreign Ministry showed that among the dead were six Britons, three Israelis, two Americans, two French nationals, and one victim each from Australia, Germany, Iran, Ireland and Sweden.
However, the list is incomplete as more than 30 foreign fatalities had not yet been positively identified.
The budget One-Two-Go Airlines flight was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew from Bangkok to Phuket on Sunday when it skidded off the runway while landing in driving wind and rain, catching fire and engulfing some passengers in flames.
Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um told reporters that 89 people, including 53 foreigners, were killed in the crash, and 41 others injured.
According to a transcript of the conversation between the control tower and the plane, ground officials informed the Indonesian pilot, Arief Mulyadi, about wind shear at the airport but he decided to land anyway, the Air Transport Department's director-general, Chaisak Ungsuwan, said on The Nation TV channel.
"The last word the pilot said was 'landing,"' he said.
Wind shear refers to sudden changes in the wind along a plane's flight path which can result in a disastrous loss of lift on the wings.
"We are still unable to say the cause of the accident," Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen said. "The officials have found the black boxes and will send them for analysis to the United States. Hopefully, we will learn in a few weeks the cause of the accident." Others suggested it could take a year to determine the cause.
Kajit Habnanonda, president of Orient-Thai Airlines, which owns One-Two-Go, said wind shear could have been a factor.
"It is possible that the plane crash was caused by wind shear," Kajit said, adding that heavy rains could have contributed to the plane skidding off the runway.