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Pasifik Nius/Fiji Times/Daily Post: 26 July 1999

DISASTERS: ANGRY FAMILIES BLAME POLICE

Angry families of the 17 passengers killed in an Air Fiji plane crash have lashed out at police for taking so long to get to the crash site, according to the Fiji Times. And a Times editorial has called the reported looting "outrageous". Casualty list reported by Daily Post


ANGRY families of the 17 passengers killed in an Air Fiji plane crash yesterday lashed out at police for taking so long to get to the crash site, the Fiji Times reports.

They have also raised a series of questions linked to the search and rescue service organised, demanding answers from aviation authorities and the Home Affairs Ministry.

The first emergency crew arrived at the wreckage at about 11.30 am on Saturday where Nadi doctor Andrew Narayan certified all passengers dead. The crash occurred around 5.40am.

Dr Narayan said yesterday that the concerns of the families were legitimate, describing as "pathetic" the general response from authorities involved in the search and rescue operation.

He was first contacted by the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF) about 8am and the group left Nadi half an hour later.

They made an aerial inspection of the wreckage about 9.15am before meeting with CAAF, Air Fiji and police at Delaisakau village.

Dr Narayan said he finally went up to the site at 11.30am because of a two-hour "intense" discussion on who should inform the minister, who should go up to the site and who should stop the media from covering the crash.

"It definitely was a no-survivor crash but attempts to get people to go and have a look at the bodies was not a priority for them," he said.

"They forgot we were dealing with human bodies and with the five-and-a-half hour lapse does not help grieving families who will not help but wonder whether there could have been survivors.

"The police who got there had no idea what to do. CAAF was only worried about finding out how the plane went down, their rescue team included one fireman, an airport attendant, a driver and an air traffic controller.

"Everybody was doing their own thing and yet nobody was doing anything - no thought at all on the repercussions of leaving the bodies in the jungle."

He said there was poor coordination between the authorities involved and the tragedy should be a learning experience for all, including the government.

Meanwhile, devastated relatives said they could not understand why the bodies were left overnight at the crash site.

They were also disappointed that police did not make the effort to protect the personal belongings of the deceased.

  • In an editorial, the Fiji Times also blamed the authorities, and criticised the police for "bad judgement" in not being first to the crash site and cordoning off the area.

    "Out of the tales of gloom and doom coming from a thick jungle on a Namosi mountainside emerges a rather scary one - of looting," the newspaper said.

    "A report of people taking away personal belongings from the aircraft wreckage is outrageous.

    "That some properties and personal belongings have been interfered with before authorities could cordon off the crash site is indeed sad.

    "It is obvious that vandalism knows no limits, not even in a remote spot in an uninhabited dense jungle.'

    The casualty list:
    KILLED, as reported by the Daily Post, were six Australians, one New Zealander, one Tongan and nine Fiji Islanders.

    They were:

    Pilot Kitione Galuinadi. He was 27 years old and the son of Fiji Sugar Corporation managing director Jonetani Galuinadi. He went to Queen Victoria School and was a keen rugby player.

    Co-pilot Filipe Racule, 26. He was a member of the Freelancers band and was to have turned 26 on Wednesday. He was the son of former school principal Ratu Amani Racule.

    Claire Bleakley, 44. She was an Australian aid worker who was returning to Tonga.

    Lloyd Ray, 43. He was an Australian aid worker and he was also returning to Tonga.

    Peter Young. He was an Australian-based New Zealand citizen. He worked in Fiji for two years as an Australian-funded consultant with the Customs Department. He was returning home to his family in Adelaide after working here for two years. He was expected back in Fiji by April next year. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

    Kuar Battan Singh, 68. The prominent Nausori businessman was going to Melbourne for medical checks.

    Esteen Singh, 47. She was the former wife of Attorney-General Anand Singh. She was a bank officer and she was going to Melbourne to visit her sister.

    Raewyn Singh, 20. She was the daughter of Esteen and Mr Singh. She was a law student working as a parttime bank teller. She was travelling with her mother to Melbourne.

    Nacanieli Saumi. He was an Air Pacific pilot and he was going to Nadi to take a flight to Australia.

    Dr Chris Kohlenberg, 42. He was an Australian aid worker who was returning to Australia from business in Fiji.

    Michael Houng Lee, 47. He was going to Australia to meet his wife. He is an architect and owner of Suva's Shooters nightclub.

    Sarah Gidney, 32. She was a hostess for Qantas and was returning home to Australia.

    Elaine Gidney, 2. She was Sarah's daughter returning home with her mother.

    Rajendra Solanki. He was the managing director of Farah Garments. He was going to a sales conference in Sydney. He is survived by his wife and a daughter.

    Mosese Latu, 34. He was going to Australia.

    Koichi Watanabe, 53. He worked for the United Nations in Bangkok and he was returning there.

    Tevita Maka, 38. He was from Tonga and he was visiting friends in Fiji. His relatives from Tonga and America are coming to Fiji.

  • Copyright 1999 Pasifik Nius/Fiji Times/Daily Post. This document is for educational and research use. Please seek permission for publication.
    http://www.asiapac.org.fj/cafepacific/resources/aspac/airfiji.html


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