PHETCHABURI, July 22 – Thai authorities have found nine bodies of passengers and crew of a fallen Black Hawk military assault helicopter after four days of searching the deep jungle along the Thai and Myanmar border.
The Black Hawk helicopter wreckage was located just 200 metres away from the first helicopter crash site.
All nine persons, eight soldiers and one cameraman from the army television TV5, were confirmed dead. More retrieval equipment is now being sent to the crash site.
Army Region 1 commander Lt-Gen Udomdej Sitabutr held a news conference Friday confirming the death of all nine persons aboard including the commander of Surasee 9th Infantry Division Maj-Gen Thawan Ruangsri.
Gen Udomdej said the Black Hawk crashed with severe impact, scattering its parts widely, but there was no explosion.
Wind shear is probably the cause of the accident, Gen Udomdej said, adding that Thai soldiers and officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation are attempting to bring the nine bodies back to a temporary helicopter pad in the mountains at 1,100 metres above sea level, with cooperation from Myanmar soldiers.
The commander added it will take a while for the retrieval process and he is still unsure if the transfer of the bodies will be accomplished within today.
Thai army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has expressed his condolences for what he described as the “big loss” to the army and instructed the army to provide fullest assistance to the victim’s families,” said Gen Udomdej.
The nine boarded the Black Hawk on Tuesday in a mission to retrieve five bodies of soldiers earlier killed in a helicopter crash in Kaeng Krajan National Park.
The national park is Thailand’s largest, and most isolated, and receives some of the heaviest rainfall in Thailand.
The Black Hawk disappeared during the initial retrieval operation. Consequently the Thai authorities sent rescue teams to search for missing helicopter by foot due to bad weather and poor visibility, amid hope that there would be survivors as no explosion was heard.
The Myanmar authorities also joined in searching for the helicopter wreckage, while the Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment offered Bt100,000 bounty per person for those who are able to find each survivor, and Bt50,000 for finding a corpse.