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Villagers 'hear' crash

Serafina Silaitoga And Luke Rawalai
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

THE cloudy condition made it difficult to see the plane, but villagers claim they heard a crash in the distance after a Cessna 172 aircraft flew pass at midday yesterday.

Police and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces officers were deployed to Suweni and Navakuru in Cakaudrove Province to search for the plane and its two passengers — a 21-year-old woman pilot student and an instructor from the Pacific Flying School.

Villagers of Suweni and Navakuru claimed they heard the engine of the missing plane approach the mountain range of Delaikoro, outside Labasa Town.

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro confirmed that the two passengers were still missing after their aircraft failed to maintain contact with ground staff in Nadi at midday yesterday.

Divisional police commander North SSP Verani Nakauyaca headed the search team in the villages of Navakuru, Dogoru and Suweni.

These villages, however, are accessible from Labasa Town and are located at the foot of the Delaikoro mountain range, the path planes fly to and from the North.

By 4pm, villagers of Navakuru joined the search team of police and military officers as they combed the mountain range.

Navakuru farmer and villager Marisiale Weleca said it was raining heavily when they heard the sound of the aircraft approaching Vunivudi farming area, on the mountain top of Navakuru.

He claimed the aircraft flew past them and minutes later they heard a crash from a distance.

"But I don't know where exactly that crashing sound came from because it was raining heavily and we continued farming," Mr Weleca claimed.

"We thought it was just another sound and didn't take notice until the police arrived and we realised that it was serious."

Navakuru Village elder Josaia Rasoso said they heard the airplane approaching the area before midday.

"But it was strange because the engine sound remained around this area and didn't leave for a while," he said.

"That was before midday and it was raining heavily and cloudy that we could not see the plane except hear the engine sound.

"Usually, we see the plane during good weather because this village sits in the path of the plane that flies to and from Viti Levu."

Mr Rasoso said they heard the engine sound of the aircraft approaching Delaikoro as it left the village area.

"The engine sound of the aircraft sounded like it was flying higher as it made its way towards Delaikoro and then we didn't hear anything else," he said.

Villagers of Suweni claimed they heard the aircraft flying around the area but with a struggling engine sound.

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