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Lao Plane Crash Kills 49; Bad Weather Blamed

Lao authorities are blaming bad weather for the crash of a state-run airlines flight that killed all 49 people on board.

The Lao Airlines ATR-72 turboprop plane was flying Wednesday from the capital, Vientiane, to the southern town of Pakse when it crashed into the Mekong River.

The CEO of Lao Airlines (Somphone Douangdara) expressed condolences to the families of the victims during a news conference on Thursday.

"We are currently conducting search and rescue missions to recover parts of the aircraft and bodies of the victims as quickly as possible with the help of all technical experts from inside and outside the country."

He added a special team from the airline is working with national and local authorities, as well as investigators from the aircraft manufacturer, to identify the cause of the accident.

The plane was new and was delivered to the airline last March.

A Lao newspaper quotes a witness as saying the plane was about to land when it was hit by a rush of strong winds and lost its balance. The pilots tried to bring the plane up, but it veered into the river. Other witnesses say if the pilots had not tried to lift the plane up, it would have crashed into houses and a nearby army ammunition depot, which would have caused more loss of life.

A passenger manifest showed 17 Lao, seven French, five Australians, five Thais, three Koreans, two Vietnamese, and one person each from the United States, Canada, China, Malaysia and Taiwan were on board.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Lao service.)