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Bodies recovered in Mekong River after Laos plane crash
PAKSE, Laos (AP) — Rescuers in fishing boats pulled bodies from the muddy Mekong River on Thursday as officials in Laos ruled out finding survivors from a plane that crashed in stormy weather, killing 49 people from 11 countries.
Backpacks, two broken airplane propellers and passports were among the debris scattered on the riverbank where the Lao Airlines turboprop plane left deep skid marks in the ground before disappearing into the water Wednesday.
“We have found nine bodies so far. At this point we don’t know their nationalities,” said Yakao Lopangkao, director-general of Lao’sDepartment of Civil Aviation, who was at the crash site in Pakse, in southern Laos. “We haven’t found the plane yet. It is underwater. We’re trying to use divers to locate it.”
He ruled out finding survivors.
“There is no hope. The plane appears to have crashed very hard before entering the water,” he said.
Some of the bodies were found by fishermen floating downstream as far as 12 miles from the crash site, he said.
“We have asked villagers and people who live along the river to look for bodies and alert authorities when they see anything,” he said.
Fleets of small boats and inflatable rafts plied the muddy, vast waterway as part of the search, with men in life jackets peering into the water. After storms Wednesday, the search took place under sunny blue skies.
State-run Lao Airlines released an updated list of the 44 passengers’ nationalities on Thursday. It said the flight included 16 Lao nationals, seven French, six Australians, five Thais, three Koreans, two Vietnamese, and one person each from Canada, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States.
The area is off the main tourist circuit in Laos but known for its remote Buddhist temples, nature treks and waterfalls.
Cambodian authorities said one of the plane’s pilots was a 56-year-old Cambodian with more than 30 years’ flying experience.
Details of the crash remained murky. Lao Airlines said in a statement Wednesday that the plane took off from the capital, Vientiane, and “ran into extreme bad weather conditions” as it prepared to land at Pakse Airport. The crash occurred about 4 miles from the airport.
The airline said it had yet to determine the cause of the crash of the ATR-72 propjet, which was delivered in March.
French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR said in a statement that “the circumstances of the accident are still being determined.” It said that it will assist in the investigation, which will be led by Lao authorities.
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