British family among 11 injured in Burma air crash

Pilot may have mistaken road for runway in accident that killed three including man who was crushed while riding his motorcycle on the road where the aircraft hit

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The Independent Online

A British family of four were among the passengers injured when an aircraft packed with tourists crash-landed on a commuter road in Burma today.

An 11-year-old boy, believed to be a Burmese citizen, a tour guide, and a man who was crushed while riding his motorcycle on the road where the aircraft hit were all killed in the accident. A total of 63 people, including 51 non-Burmese passengers and six crew members, were aboard the Air Bagan flight when it hit the road two miles short of its destination, Inle Lake.

Conflicting accounts were given about what happened. Some reports said the pilot was forced to make a hard landing when a fire broke out in one of the aircraft’s engines after it hit part of a mountain on its descent into the popular tourist region.

But Burmese authorities said the pilot had mistaken the road for a runway because of bad weather and low cloud. State television reported that “the plane mistakenly landed due to fog beside the runway”.

A spokesman for Air Bagan, a mostly domestic airline founded in 2004, said: “The cause of the incident is not yet clear. Only the pilots will know the cause, but we can’t contact them yet as they have been sent to hospital.”

Eyewitnesses reported that the tail of the aircraft had snapped off on landing, causing a fire to erupt, before it coming to a stop in a nearby paddy field. Rescuers were able to extinguish the fire within 45 minutes and then transported all the passengers to the Victoria Hospital in Rangoon.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman confirmed that an acting consul had met the British family of four, who escaped the wreckage relatively unscathed. She said the father had sustained minor injuries, but that his wife and two children were unharmed.

It is believed that 11 people were seriously injured, and are currently receiving treatment for broken bones, cuts, burns and shock. The crash has contributed to continuing concerns about the safety of air travel in Burma. After experiencing a sharp rise in adventure-tourism, diplomats to the South-east Asian country have voiced fears that its domestic airlines cannot support the burgeoning industry.

International sanctions and poor regulations, they say, means carriers can continue to use out-of-date aircraft. The Fokker 100 Jet which crashed yesterday is one of two operated by Air Bagan despite no longer being in production.

The wreckage of Air Bagan’s 22-year-old Fokker-100 crashes en route to Heho in Shan State on December 25, 2012 in Burma.  Air Bagan was carrying many foreign tourists. Two people were killed, 11 were injured and airline officials confirmed that a Briton was among those rushed to hospital, along with an American and a Korean. The Deputy Information Minister said that there were 51 foreigners among 63 passengers, with an additional six crew and two security officers on board the 22-year-old Fokker 100. Eleven people with injuries have been taken to nearby Saosanhtun Hospital in Taunggyi, Popular News said.