Cessna search delay

Members of the rescue teams prepare to load part of the Cessna 172 wreckage on to a truck. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Members of the rescue teams prepare to load part of the Cessna 172 wreckage on to a truck. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI/FILE

DELAYS in deploying air search teams during the search and recovery efforts of the Cessna 172 crash was a deliberate decision based on unfavourable weather at the time and the need to avoid further loss of lives.

This was clarified by Minister for Defence and National Security Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in Parliament yesterday.

He was responding to a statement by Opposition MP Mosese Bulitavu in a press release on February 27 claiming Government was unprepared and caught off-guard in situations of mounting rescue and search operations after what he said delayed response and lack of information coming out of the Cessna 172 loss.

“It would be unreasonable for us to put our aerial search teams out when visibility was almost none,” Ratu Inoke said.

“In addition, we do not want to risk losing additional lives when common sense dictates that it would be untenable to deploy those assets and responders in unfavourable flying and search conditions.”

He said Pacific Flying School had made use of its resources during the first two days of search efforts, but were unable to locate the crash site because of poor weather.

“I would also like to comment on a suggestion made by the honourable Bulitavu in his release to give parachutes to air-travellers. It baffles me to think that an honourable member of this House would make such baseless and misleading statement in public.

“Parachutes are not considered a lifesaving equipment for all fixed wing aircraft. The most basic training requires several hours of theory and several practical jumps with experienced jumpers before a lay person such as a passenger on a commercial flight can even consider making that jump. Jumping out of a fixed wing aircraft with a parachute with or without training is more than likely to be met with a fatal outcome.

“I humbly urge members of this House to take some time to think through issues before we put them out for public consumption.”

Meanwhile, the ministry is continuing its work on a search and rescue manual aimed to improve operations as such.

“Findings and lessons learnt from the Cessna 172 search and rescue efforts will be incorporated in the manual draft which is expected to be finalised by June this year.”

He said the manual would empower all turaga ni koro and advisory counsellors to initiate initial response to any distress call or incidents whether it be land, maritime or aeronautical and guided by the rescue co-ordination centre.