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Black box found; pilot mourned

A mourner burns joss paper yesterday at the funeral of pilot Yong Sam in Kandal.
A mourner burns joss paper yesterday at the funeral of pilot Yong Sam in Kandal. PHA LINA

Black box found; pilot mourned

The black box from a Lao Airlines flight that crashed on Wednesday killing 49 people, including the Cambodian pilot, was sent to France yesterday to be examined, as investigators pulled six more bodies from the Mekong River.

Veteran pilot Yong Sam, 58, was flying the ATR-72 turboprop plane from the capital Vientiane to Champasak city in the south of the country as it prepared to land in stormy weather at Pakse airport when it crashed, killing all 49 people on board.

Him Sarun, deputy chief of safety and security at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, told the Post yesterday that the flight data and voice recorders had been found and sent to France where they would be examined by ATR, the French-Italian manufacturer.

Search teams pulled six more bodies from the Mekong, the Lao national carrier said yesterday, taking the number of corpses recovered to 38.

In Kandal province, the body of the Cambodian pilot who died in the crash was cremated yesterday evening after being repatriated by the airline on Saturday.

Hundreds of people turned out at the Kampong Samnanh crematorium in Takhmao for the funeral, which was attended by representatives of the Lao government.

Sam’s wife, Chantho, 55, said she was staying with her granddaughter in Vientiane when she heard the news of her husband’s death.

“When I was having dinner, many people came to my house and told me that my husband died in a plane crash, and the Laos authorities were looking for the body,” she said.

Im Thorn, 65, Sam’s friend and neighbour, said Sam was humble and kind but that he had previously lost his job as a pilot when the airline he was working for went bankrupt.

“Ten years ago, when he lost his pilot job, he, together with his wife and children, grew fruit trees and vegetables, and he worked as a motodop,” he said.

Somsamay Visounnarath, vice president of Lao Airlines, said at the funeral that the company would pay compensation to the family once the investigation by the insurance company was completed.

Investigators will seek to determine whether the plane crashed due to human error or a technical fault.

Sam’s youngest son, 23-year-old Yong Sav Leak, told the Post he was planning to visit his father in Laos when he heard the news of his death.

“I and my two older sisters flew to Laos to find the body with the Lao Navy, Thai and French [investigators],” Leak said. “He died doing his duty. As his son, I feel proud. I want to be a pilot like him.”

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