Lao Air plane crashes on takeoff in Huaphan
A Twin Otter aircraft owned by Lao Air crashed shortly after takeoff from Nathong Airport in Huaphan province on Wednesday after failing to clear the end of the runway at the short rural airstrip.
The accident happened at 2:35 pm when the aircraft attempted to take off en route for Vientiane. Witnesses said it appeared that the 19-seat plane clipped the top of some trees before crashing into a canal about 200 metres from the end of the runway.
Fortunately, no one was killed in the accident, but five people sustained chest injuries of varying degrees and were taken to hospital while the plane sustained considerable damage.
The Twin Otter aircraft after it crashed in Huaphan province. --Photo Misa Phomvongsa
Managing Director of Lao Air State Enterprise Colonel Bounma Chanthavongsa told Vientiane Times the following day “We're not sure what caused the crash because we are still investigating.”
The plane was carrying 16 passengers at the time of the accident. Mr Bounma said five people were sent for X-rays at the Friendship Hospital in Vientiane after sustaining chest injuries.
The other 11 passengers sustained minor injuries but did not feel they were in need of hospital treatment. However, Lao Air requested they all go to hospital to be checked out, with the company insisting it would foot any medical bills, Colonel Bounma explained.
In 2009, another slightly larger plane owned by Lao Air had to make an emergency landing in a rice field in Huaphan after encountering mechanical difficulties shortly after take-off.
However, due to modern aircraft standards and the pilot's skill, no one was injured on this occasion and the aircraft did not sustain any damage, according to the company.
Nathong Airport in Huaphan province is quite small and technical standards are low. Unfortunately, this airport cannot be expanded to accommodate larger aircraft due to the mountainous terrain so only smaller aircraft are capable of landing there.
There are only a few flights between Vientiane and Huaphan, but the sector is popular because it takes just over an hour from Huaphan to Vientiane.
In comparison the bus journey is long and arduous. Tourists and local residents don't like to travel by bus because it takes up to two days depending on conditions.
Vientiane residents who go to Huaphan by road joke that they don't want to return home once they arrive because they are afraid of getting headaches and car sickness again, after enduring the long and bumpy journey.
By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
(Latest Update April 19, 2013)