Laos plane crash: Australian family among 49 killed as aircraft 'hits bad weather'

They were among 49 people from a total of ten countries killed

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The Independent Online

An Australian family of four were among 49 people from a total of ten countries killed when a plane crashed into the Mekong river in Laos.

Relatives on Thursday released a photograph of 39-year-old tax consultant Gavin Rhodes, his wife Phoumalaysy Rhodes and their children Jadesuda, aged 3, and 17-month-old Manfred.

They were onboard the Lao Airlines plane that crashed en route between the Lao capital Vientiane to Pakse in the south of the country. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement that six Australians were on board the plane and no survivors were expected.

According to the Associated Press, the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport, which operates the airline as a state enterprise, said 44 passengers and five crew members had been aboard flight QV301.

"Upon preparing to land at Pakse Airport the aircraft ran into extreme bad weather conditions and reportedly crashed into the Mekong River," the ministry said in a statement.

It said there was no word of survivors. The airline flies an ATR 72-600 twin-engine turboprop plane on the 290-mile route. The aircraft is configured with 68-74 seats, said the plane's manufacturer ATR.

A passenger manifest faxed by the airline listed 44 people: 17 Lao, seven French, five Australians, five Thais, three Koreans, two Vietnamese and one person each from Canada, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States. Korean, French and Thai officials confirmed the totals for their nationalities.

The Lao government said the airline was "taking all necessary steps to coordinate and dispatch all rescue units to the accident site in the hope of finding survivors".

However, a statement issued by the Australian authorities said they had been informed by Lao officials did not expect there to be any survivors.

The Lao transport ministry statement said the crash is being investigated and the airline hoped to announce its findings later today. A press conference has reportedly been arranged.