Thais Report Finding Korean Jet Wreckage
The wreckage of a missing South Korean airliner carrying 115 people was found today near a remote Thai village close to the Burmese border, a Thai air force spokesman said.
Korean Air Flight 858 disappeared on Sunday as it approached Bangkok for a refueling stop on its flight from Baghdad, Iraq, to Seoul.
The air force spokesman, speaking to reporters who had been waiting to join a planned air force mission to search for the Boeing 707, said the wreckage was found near a village in Sai Yoke district in Kanchanaburi province.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s rescue unit confirmed that wreckage had been found. He said witnesses had heard an explosion in the area on Sunday and that villagers saw the plane fall.
The aircraft came down about 90 nautical miles west of Bangkok in Thai territory close to Tanek, the last reporting point in Burma for flights to Bangkok, the spokesman said.
The Korean flight, carrying 95 passengers and a crew of 20, had been scheduled to make a refueling stop in Bangkok at about 1 p.m. local time on Sunday.
It made its last contact with the Rangoon control tower at 12:05 p.m. as it passed over the Urdis flight reporting point near the coast south of the Burmese capital.
The pilot told the Burmese control tower he was about 22 minutes’ flying time from the next reporting point.
Nothing more was heard from the aircraft, a Bangkok controller said. He said at the time that he believed the plane must have crashed either into the sea or into the rugged forest along the border.
Thailand then launched a major search, backed by the military, in a wooded area of Kanchanaburi province that borders Burma.
A team of Korean Air and South Korean officials, including Korean Air Chairman Cho Choong Hoon, left for Bangkok today.
Workers Returning Home
Most of the passengers on the flight were South Korean contract workers returning home from the Middle East. The airline said there were two foreigners aboard--an Indian and a citizen of the United Arab Emirates.
The passengers included 55 employees of the Hyundai construction and engineering company and Seoul’s consul general in Baghdad, Kang Suk Jae.
About 300 distraught relatives had kept a vigil at Seoul’s Kimpo airport through the night. More were put up at an airport hotel, where airline officials kept them informed of the search.
Airline officials said the airliner had been been involved in an emergency landing at Kimpo last September after its nose wheel failed to function. Reports at the time said the 16-year-old plane was undamaged.
Like most of the airline’s flight staff, the pilot of the plane, Kim Jik Han, 59, is a former air force officer.
A veteran of the Korean War, he had 5,000 hours of civilian flying experience. The airline said he retired last year but was brought back on a short-term contract.