In a news release, Airline PNG, confirmed a Dash-8 airplane with 28 passengers and 4 crew crashed at 5pm local time (0800 UTC/GMT) on Thursday.
The flight, carrying parents on their way to their childrens’ graduation, was flying from Lae to Madang when it crashed. Local villagers in the area of the crash are reported to have said tat there are four survivors; however, the numbers are not yet confirmed.
Update (0243GMT): The four survivors include the pilot, co-pilot, and two passengers one Australian and the other from New Zealand. It is possible the the pilot and co-pilot are respectively from Australia and New Zealand – details continue to emerge.
One of the survivors told medical staff that the plane broke in half – he said he managed to get out of the plane through a crack in the fuselage.
None of the survivors have life-threatening injuries; however, one survivor has burns to about 25% of his body.
Investigators say it is common practice for an airline to ground a fleet of planes when one of them has been involved in an accident; airlines ground the fleet as a precaution until mechanical problems are ruled out as the cause of an accident.
[end of update]
Witnesses reported seeing flames in the area of the crash.
The weather was poor at the time of the crash, which occurred about 20km south of Madang near the mouth of the Gogol river. The crash site is in dense forest, yet a crash investigator is on the scene along with emergency services including police and ambulance.
The operator of the downed Dash-8, Airline PNG, said it has grounded its fleet of 12 Dash-8 aircraft until further notice and is cooperating with local authorities in their investigations.
More than 20 aircraft have crashed in Papua New Guinea since 2000 and the nation established an air accident commission in 2008 in response to claims of corruption and a significant decline in safety standards.
In a press release, the airline said “Our prayers and thoughts are now with all those affected by this very sad day for Papua New Guinea”.
The downed plane was a Dash-8 model 100 bearing registration P2-MCJ, flight number CG-1600 from Lae to Madang, Papua New Guinea.
The Dash-8 aircraft is manufactured by Bombardier, with over 1,000 built since its introduction in 1984; each Dash-8 currently costs US$12.5m.