Eight Britons are confirmed dead among 89 victims of Phuket crash

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The Independent Online

Eight Britons were killed in Sunday's plane crash on the Thai holiday island of Phuket, it was confirmed yesterday. Three British nationals remained in hospital last night, one of them in a critical condition.

The identity of the eight feared dead has not been confirmed but Neil and Helen Slater, from Scunthorpe, are believed to be among them, as are Tony and Judy Weston, of Bristol, who had won a two-week holiday to Thailand.

In a statement, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, described the crash as "a terrible tragedy". "Everyone will have been shocked by the news of the air crash in Thailand on Sunday," he said. "My thoughts are with all of those affected and, particularly, the families of the eight British nationals we now believe lost their lives."

A total of 89 people died when the aircraft slid off the runway and exploded after landing in heavy rain and high winds. Budget airline One-Two-Go's Flight OG269 from Bangkok split in two before coming to rest on an embankment. Thai police have identified 36 dead foreigners so far.

British diplomatic staff are in Phuket helping those affected by the accident. Two British survivors were saluted for their bravery by the Thai Foreign Minister, Nittaya Phibulsongkram, yesterday. Peter Hill, 35, an English teacher from Manchester, was described as "a hero" after it was revealed that he and Ashley Harrow, 27, from Moira, near Belfast, forced open an emergency exit while in the burning wreckage, saving up to eight other people.

Mr Hill, who was presented by the minister with grapes, flowers and £75 in Thai baht, said: "I don't want to be thought of a hero. My only thought was to get off that plane."

Mr Harrow added: "Peter jumped and I followed him out on the wing. There was smoke and I could feel the flames. To be honest, we just started running and kept on going.

"I only turned round later and just saw this black cloud pouring out of the plane. I expected to see dozens of people coming out – but there was no one."

Investigators have found the flight data recorders and sent them to the US for analysis. It could take weeks to establish the precise cause of any technical failure but experts have suggested that wind shear – sudden, abrupt changes of wind speed – could be to blame. Some suggested that a microburst, a particularly strong form of wind shear that deceives pilots into slowing an aircraft when too close the ground, hit the plane. Officials said half of the systems designed to detect wind shear on the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 were not working.

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