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Australian PM confirms 13 dead in PNG plane crash

ABC RADIO AUSTRALIA Updated 6 hours 33 minutes ago

News that no-one survived the light plane crash in Papua New Guinea was broken to Australians by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Presenter: Linda Mottram
Speakers: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Australian opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull

Listen:Windows Media

MOTTRAM: Soon after receiving the news from Port Moresby, Kevin Rudd rose in the Australian Parliament.

RUDD: A little before 1pm today, Australia's High Commisssioner to Papua New Guinea advised the foreign minister that he had been informed by Papua New Guinea officials on the ground at the crash site that they had concluded that there were no survivors from the crash.

MOTTRAM: The families, whose wait for news had been acknowledged by Australian leaders as angst ridden, had been informed, Mr Rudd said. And there was a poignant detail.

RUDD: There were nine Australians killed in this crash. Two of them - a father and a daughter - come from the same family.

MOTTRAM: Since news of the aircraft's disappearance in the shadow of the Owen Stanley Range, at the mercy of rough terrain and fickle weather, Australia's leaders had been at pains to convey their grave concern, though hoping for what one newspaper headline said was a search for a miracle. But that was not to be.

RUDD: There is a horrible tragedy involved when families send off their loved ones for what they expect to be an experience of a lifetime, only for it to turn into a tragedy such as this. And Mr. Speaker I am sure I speak on behalf of all members of the House when I say our thoughts and our prayers go to the families, friends and loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in this disaster in Papua New Guinea.

MOTTRAM: And the leader of Australia's Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, drew on his own personal pain to join the expressions of condolence.

TURNBULL: The opposition shares with the prime minister the very great sadness occasioned by this terrible accident, the aeroplane accident in Papua New Guinea. Many of us have lost loved ones in aeroplane accidents. My own father 27 years ago was killed in a light plane accident where the plane got caught in cloud in mountainous country, and I know very keenly all those years later how the loved ones and the families of those who perished in this accident are feeling.

MOTTRAM: Australia had already scrambled significant military resources to help with the search and hoped-for rescue. Before dawn in Canberra, the Prime Minister, the Foreign minister, the Defence minister and top military brass poured over maps and talked to counterparts in Port Moresby to ensure all that was possible would be done. With virtually instant agreement last night Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare agreed to the assistance. Sea King helicopters, a C-130 aircraft with an aero-medical team, a C-17 aircraft with Black Hawk helicopters were all despatched, though within hours, the Papua New Guinea police would confirm that the search and rescue would become a recovery mission.

Now, with bad weather again closing in, Australia is sending more help, but this time to help with identification of the 13 people who've perished in the crash - nine Australians, a Japanese national and three Papua New Guineans.

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