PMTair Flight 241
PMTair Flight 241 after a maiden flight to Sihanoukville in January 2007
|Date||June 25, 2007|
|Site||Northeast of Bokor Mountain in Kampot Province, Cambodia|
|Aircraft type||Antonov An-24B|
|Flight origin||Siem Reap International Airport, Siem Reap, Cambodia|
|Destination||Sihanoukville International Airport, Sihanoukville, Cambodia|
PMTair Flight 241 (U4 241/PMT241) was a scheduled domestic passenger flight, flying from Siem Reap International Airport, Siem Reap to Sihanoukville International Airport, Sihanoukville. The flight was operated by PMTair using an Antonov An-24. On 25 June 2007, the Antonov An-24, registered as XU-U4A, disappeared over Cambodian jungle near Bokor while on approach to Sihanoukville. A massive search and rescue operation occurred, as thousands of soldiers and police scoured the area. The aircraft was found to have crashed in southwestern Cambodia, northeast of Bokor Mountain in Kampot Province. All 22 people on board, most of whom were South Korean tourists, were killed. An investigation and inquiry was completed in March 2008, but couldn't conclude the cause of the crash of Flight 241.
The aircraft was making a domestic passenger flight from Angkor International Airport in Siem Reap to Sihanoukville International Airport in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Siem Reap was the main tourist hubs city to Sihanoukville in Cambodia. Siem Reap was a popular tourist city. On the other hand, Sihanoukville was one of the most popular tourist destination. The city was famous for its beaches and site of the famed Angkor Wat temple complex. Tourism industry in Cambodia has improved, and most of the tourists were from South Korea. According to Cambodia's Tourism Ministry, South Korea had the highest number of tourists visiting Cambodia in 2006. Around 221,000 South Koreans were among 2006's total of 1.7 million foreign visitors. The airline, PMTair, was a small Cambodian airline that began flying from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville in January 2007, a new route launched to spur the country's burgeoning tourism industry. According to PMTAir's website, the airline has six roundtrip flights a week between Siem Reap and Incheon and Busan.
Passengers and crew
Of the sixteen passengers, 13 were South Koreans and three were from the Czech Republic. The Korean passengers were part of a tour group. The pilot of Flight 241 was identified as Ut Chan Tara, and the co-pilot was identified as Hean Chan Dara. The co-pilot, Hean Chan Dara, was the nephew of Heng Samrin, president of the National Assembly. He went to the Soviet Union to study in the former Soviet Union to become an airplane mechanics, and in 1996 he learned to fly AN-24-type airplanes. He pursued additional flight training in China in 1997. Ut Chan Tara, the pilot, went to pursue pilot training in the Soviet Union in 1985. The crew of six was made up of an Uzbekistani pilot and two Cambodian co-pilots, a Cambodian flight engineer and two Cambodian flight attendants.
The aircraft was on approach to Sihanoukville International Airport when its radar vector suddenly dropped from the screen. Contact was lost with the plane at 10.50am local time, five minutes before it had been due to land. The aircraft went missing over the dense and mountainous Kampot's jungle. At the time of the crash, the weather was stormy. A search and rescue team was assembled by the authorities and involving more than thousands of soldiers and local police officers. The search and rescue efforts were hampered by rough terrain and adverse weather condition.
South Korean relatives that heard the news of the disappearance of the flight immediately flew from Incheon International Airport to Phnom Penh. They were later transported by a bus to a hotel in the region. South Korean embassy have also been informed about the disappearance. South Korean officials and diplomats were called to the airport to check the situation. Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, said there was little hope of finding survivors among the 22 people.
On the second day of the search operation, several searchers in helicopters set out after a rain storm cleared, scouring a stretch of dense jungle and mountainous terrain, but returned with no further clues as to where the plane may be located. Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Kampot Town to discuss the search and rescue efforts with Cambodia's top military officials. He later asked for the United States to use its high-tech surveillance satellites to help search for the missing plane. The United States later joined the search and rescue effort of Flight 241. Later, the wreckage of Flight 241 was found on Bokor Mountain. The plane was found in upside down condition with bodies strewn around the wreckage. Prime Minister Hun Sen then conducted a press conference in response to the discovery, and stated "This is a tragedy no one should have to experience."
Immediately after the crash, South Korean aviation authorities held safety inspections on PMTair and six other foreign airlines. Sar Sareth, the airline's director, stated that the plane was in "good condition" before taking off from Siem Reap. Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the storm was likely to blame for the crash, rather than technical problems. Both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were sent to Russia for further examination. In March 2008, Cambodian investigators completed their investigation on the crash of Flight 241. The report couldn't determine the main cause of the accident, as they weren't sure if PMTair or the pilot was to blame.
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