British family survives Burma air tragedy as bad weather blamed for crash

Rescue personnel survey the Air Bagan wreckage. Picture: AFP/Getty

Rescue personnel survey the Air Bagan wreckage. Picture: AFP/Getty

  • by AYE AYE WIN

Two people were killed earlier today when a plane packed with Christmas tourists, including four Britons, crash-landed on a road in Burma.

One British national was among four foreigners injured in the crash, reports from the country said tonight.

The four Britons were members of the same family, reports claimed. The father is said to have sustained only minor injuries, with his wife and two children unharmed.

Burmese authorities said the plane’s pilot mistook the road for a runway as a result of bad weather.

After crash-landing, the plane caught fire, which took authorities 45 minutes to bring under control according to state media in the country.

The two people killed in the crash – an 11-year-old passenger, and a man riding a motorcycle on the road where the plane came down – are both believed to be Burmese.

Pictures from the scene shortly after the crash showed billowing black smoke rising from the debris as emergency services

battled to extinguish the fire.

Later images showed the plane almost completely destroyed as a result of the flames.

A total of 11 people were treated for injuries. Airport officials in the town of Heho said the injured passengers were taken to a hospital in the nearby city of Taunggyi for treatment.

The Air Bagan flight was carrying 63 passengers, including 51 foreigners, and six crew members from the city of Mandalay to Heho airport in Shan state, the gateway to popular tourist destination Inle Lake.

The airline identified the injured tourists as a British national, two Americans and a Korean. It described the incident as an “emergency landing”.

Authorities said the pilot thought the road was a runway due to bad weather.

State television reported: “While descending, the plane mistakenly landed … due to fog beside the runway.”

It said the aircraft made a hard landing on a road and then came to a stop in a nearby rice paddy field.

“The rear end of the plane broke and caught fire,” a state television commentary said.

Rescuers brought the fire under control about 45 minutes later.

Witnesses said smoke filled the plane when it hit the ground and was still rising from the plane’s badly-charred wreckage hours later.

Air Bagan is one of five private airlines that fly domestic routes in Burma.

Owned by Tay Za, a Burmese tycoon blacklisted by the United States for his alleged links to the former military regime, Air Bagan was the country’s first privately-run carrier when it was established in 2004.

Burma has seen a spike in tourism in recently. A travel trends report earlier this month from Skyscanner showed it as the “hottest” new destination for Britons, having seen a 125 per cent increase in searches over the past year.


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