Bodies of Saturday’s five chopper crash victims successfully retrieved

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BANGKOK, July 20 – Rescue operations coordinated by the Thai army, and the ministries of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and Natural Resources and Environment, successfully retrieved five charred bodies of military officers killed in a military helicopter crash in Phetchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan National Park last Saturday.

The rescue workers earlier tried to use a helicopter from the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to retrieve the bodies, but bad weather and strong winds aborted the attempt to land at a makeshift helicopter clearing.

The helicopter was forced to return to the Special Operations Training Camp at Kaeng Krajarn.

Director-General Sunan Arunnopparat of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department later met Gen Udomdej Sitabut, Thailand’s First Army Commander, to discuss options for retrieving the bodies and agreed to use a department helicopter to make artificial rain in order to draw rain clouds out of the area.

The operation successfully ‘opened the sky,’ Mr Sunan said, permitting the helicopter to land and retrieve the five bodies out of the forest smoothly after the bad weather had obstructed the mission for four days since the crash on Saturday.

The five bodies were then brought to Thailand’s Special Operations Training Camp at Kaeng Krajarn national park for the positive identification process and taken to Surasee Military Camp in Kanchanaburi province for funeral rites.

Their Huey helicopter crashed in foul weather during a mission to airlift troops on a patrol mission to combat forest encroachment and illegal logging in the national park in Phetchaburi.

Meanwhile, some 100 Thai army personnel began a jungle march on to locate nine Thai soldiers who were on board the second helicopter, a Black Hawk military assault helicopter, which crashed during a mission to retrieve five bodies from the earlier Huey crash.

The site where the Black Hawk helicopter went down is estimated to be about 15 kilometres from Panoentung Mountain in Phetchaburi where the rescue column started its march.