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Villagers mourn

Serafina Silaitoga And Luke Rawalai
Thursday, March 01, 2018

SILENCE blanketed the village of Dogoru in Macuata yesterday after the tragic news - the death of the missing pilots - reached those who helped out with the search.

Village headman Semi Radradra said the news of their deaths saddened many villagers because they were part of the search and rescue team.

The two "trainee pilot Merelesita Lutu and flight instructor Iliesa Tawalo" were found dead in the hills of Delaikoro yesterday afternoon.

Last night, the villagers of Dogoru remained in the village hall with policemen and soldiers.

Mr Radradra said the few days of helping out was a great honour for his people because they were tasked to look for the two who were reported missing after their Cessna 172 aircraft failed to land at Labasa Airport at Waiqele.

"We send our condolences to the families of Merelesita and Iliesa and being with the search team over the past few days makes us feel we know them," he said.

"We are so sad and we will continue our prayers with the family."

Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Rusiate Tudravu said the efforts being co-ordinated through the Search and Rescue Command Centre would now focus on securing the crash site for the arrival of the appointed New Zealand-based air accident investigator.

"The joint search team consisting of officers from the Fiji Police Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Force has reached the site of the plane crash and confirmation of the discovery of the two victims has been made," he said.

"The Director CID will oversee this first phase of investigations and forensics and force pathologist will be deployed to the site.

"The news of the discovery has been relayed to the family of the victims as the focus shifts to the investigation into the circumstances leading up to the tragic incident."



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