Thursday, August 09, 2007

Air Moorea Twin Otter crashes shortly after takeoff

MooreaA Twin Otter turboprop aircraft with 20 people on board, operating as Air Moorea Flight 1121, has crashed in French Polynesia. News reports about the accident say that the scheduled inter-island flight had just taken off from Temae Airport (MOZ) on the island of Moorea, en route to Papeete, Tahiti when it crashed into the sea. The accident occurred today shortly after noon, local time.

The aircraft was reported to have come down about a mile off the coast of the island, beyond the lagoon. News reports say there are no signs of survivors, but that 14 bodies had been recovered, including that of the pilot. The French navy is continuing to search for possible survivors and other victims.

None of the victims have been identified by authorities in French Polynesia, however Radio Fiji is reporting that two senior staff of the European Union delegation based in Suva, Fiji were among the plane's passengers:
Michele Gache and Jean Pierre Tierard were on an official business trip inspecting a water purification project on Moorea Island.

EU Communications Officer and first counselor for the Suva delegation Florimond Van-der-Velde confirmed to Radionews the two were working for the European Union in Suva for the past three years.
Air Moorea is wholly owned by Air Tahiti. The airline has been in business for about 35 years. This was its first accident.

UPDATE August 11, 2007: The pilot of Air Moorea Flight 1121 who died in the accident has been identified by the airline as Captain Michel Santurenne, who had 3,500 hours of flight time. Born on September 6, 1954, he would have celebrated his 53rd birthday next month.

Captain Santurenne's body has been recovered, along with those of 13 passengers. The search continues for the six still missing.

A full list of passengers' names has not yet been released. Those seeking official information about the Air Moorea accident should visit the press release page on the Air Tahiti website.

[Photo Source]