Official starts to repatriate Australian bodies from Africa

09:49, June 22, 2010      

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It could take weeks to repatriate the bodies of six Australian mining executives after rescuers found the wreckage of their crashed plane in a remote jungle in west Africa, Australia's media reported on Tuesday.

The entire board of Australia's Perth-based mining company Sundance Resources were among the 11 people killed when their twin turboprop CASA C212 plane crashed during a flight from Cameroon's capital Yaounde to Yangadou in Congo on Saturday.

Sundance strategic adviser and former chairman George Jones said a 10 km track will have to be carved out of the jungle to assist in recovery operations.

Diplomatic protocols required with the various African governments involved could further delay repatriation efforts.

"It could be as short as a week or two and it could possibly take considerably longer than that," Jones told the Seven Network on Tuesday.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the difficult recovery process would require patience from the victims' families.

"It will take longer than families would wish to repatriate the bodies," Smith told ABC Radio.

"Unfortunately we have to brace ourselves for a painstaking period."

Smith was confident there would be an exhaustive investigation of the crash although he noted the requirement for coordination and cooperation between Cameroon and Congo authorities "will have its own difficulties."

It was against company policy for the entire executive to travel on the same plane.

Jones said the group had planned to use two aircraft for the trip, including non-executive director Ken Talbot's personal plane, but the landing strip at their destination could not accommodate his aircraft.

"So the board obviously made the judgment in the circumstances (to use) the aircraft they had available," Jones said.

"It was their judgment to go ahead with the flight."

Jones told ABC Radio he had no information yet about the cause of the crash but the wreckage did not show signs of fire or an explosion.

On board were mining magnate and Sundance non-executive director Ken Talbot, chairman Geoff Wedlock, chief executive Don Lewis, company secretary John Carr-Gregg and non-executive directors John Jones and Craig Oliver.

Also on board were Natasha Flason, a Frenchwoman based in Australia who worked for Talbot's private investment company the Talbot Group, American Jeff Duff who was working as a consultant to Sundance, a British citizen and the two pilots, one from France and the other from Britain.

The wreckage was found about midnight (AEST) on Monday on the western ridge of the Avima Range in Congo, near the Gabonese border.

The effort to recover the bodies began at first light (local time) on Tuesday.

Source: Xinhua


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