After an exhaustive three-day search through dense jungle on the northeast side of
Kampot province's Bokor mountain, the wreckage of PMT Air's flight U4 241 was discovered
in the early hours of June 27, officials said. The operation to find and remove the
bodies of the 22 passengers and crew that departed from Siem Reap en route to Sihanoukville
on June 25 was completed by June 28. There were no survivors.
Searchers inspect the wreckage of PMT Air Flight U4 241 from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville. On board were 22 passengers and crew.
Nhim Vanda, first deputy president of the National Committee for Disaster Management,
led more than 1,000 RCAF troops through difficult terrain in an attempt to locate
the site of the accident. The one-armed Vanda said all 22 bodies had been recovered
and taken from the wreckage to Phnom Penh's Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk hospital,
where there were awaiting identification and repatriation.
"We have identified all 13 Korean bodies," said an official from the South
Korean Embassy. "This
process was finished by midnight on June 27. We are now working on returning the
victims to Korea."
The families of the victims, many of whom traveled to Cambodia from Korea earlier
this week, have not yet seen the bodies of their loved ones, the official said.
"The victims' families are still in a state of shock," the official said.
"We are currently cleaning up the bodies, and when this process is complete,
we will invite the families to the hospital to view the bodies if they want."
On June 27, relatives of the Cambodian victims, waiting outside the hospital to collect
the bodies of their loved ones, said they had been promised five million riel by
government officials to help cover the costs of funeral ceremonies.
The Antonov An-24 plane was also carrying three Czech passengers, and a crew made
up of five Cambodians and one Uzbek pilot, Nikolay Pavlenko.
Contrary to local media reports, Pavlenko was an Uzbeki not a Russian citizen, said
Vladlen Semivolos, Deputy Head of Mission at the Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh.
"We do have Russian pilots working in Cambodia but this pilot was from Uzbekistan
not Russia," he said on June 27. "As far as I understand the plane was
made in ether Russia or Ukraine, and it will be for the local authorities to decide
where the black boxes [both of which were retrieved from the wreckage] will be sent
An official from the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) said that the plane
was Russian made and that the data recorders, or black boxes, would be sent to Russia
Kampot Police Chief In Chiva, said on June 27 that it took local police and RCAF
soldiers over 12 hours to cut the plane apart and locate the victims.
The wreck was discovered when the thick cloud cover dispersed enough to allow the
reconnaissance helicopters into the area.
"We actually found the wreck," said Kevin Treloar, of Helicopters of Cambodia,
a private company asked to join the rescue mission by the Korean Embassy and the
Cambodian government. "There was no Electronic Location Device (ELD) to ease
search efforts. We don't know whether there was one on board the plane. We knew roughly
where the plane had crashed, but were only able to sneak in under the clouds this
On June 28, PMT Air, known officially as Progress Multitrade Co. Ltd, could not be
reached to confirm whether the Anatov An-24 had been equipped with an ELD.
One pilot with extensive experience flying in Cambodia, said ELD requirements depended
on where a plane was registered.
"The weather was not perfect but I had no problem," said the pilot, who
was also in the air on June 25. "You would think if they were in trouble they
would have been able to land, but then we fly visual and they fly by instruments."
"At the end of the day though, it is always the pilots decision as to whether
it is safe enough to fly given the prevailing weather conditions."
A forensic investigation into the causes of the crash has been launched, and will
examine the possibility of pilot error.
Some Korean media outlets have obtained a purported recording of the final moments
of conversation between the pilot of PMT flight U4 241 and the control tower in Sihanoukville.
The alleged transcript, which was printed in Korean media, reads:
"We are flying at an altitude of 2000 feet," said the pilot.
"You are flying too low. Given your current location, you should move to an
altitude of 4000 feet," said the control tower in Sihanoukville.
"It's no problem; I am familiar with this area," said the pilot. These
were allegedly the final words spoken by the pilot before the plane lost contact
with the control tower, disappeared from radar screens, and crashed into the northeast
side of Bokor mountain.
An official from the South Korean Embassy confirmed that Korean media had been reporting
that pilot error was the cause of the accident.
The Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh will wait until the results of the forensic investigation
are finalized before offering any comments on the causes of the crash, the official
Him Sarun, chief of cabinet at SSCA, said that it was too early to determine the
causes of the crash.
"What the [Korean media] reports say is just speculation, it is not the truth,"
he told the Post June 28.
"We will not know the causes of the crash until the black boxes have been examined.
We have not examined the black boxes yet, we will send them to Russia to be examined.
This information [as reported in Korean media] is not true, I don't know where they
got this information from, but it is only rumor."