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Cliff of death

Serafina Silaitoga
Friday, March 02, 2018

THE brave and courageous work by the recovery team to retrieve the bodies of Merelesita Lutu and Iliesa Tawalo last night has been applauded.

The team worked on the mountain top of Delaikoro using quickdraws, pulleys, slings and ropes to get to the wreckage of the Cessna 172 aircraft.

With ropes tied around their waists, the members of the recovery team involving police, military and firefighters descended 100m to the crash site using slings and safety belts.

The wreckage of the aircraft was stuck on a tree with branches hovering over a steep cliff so the recovery team, led by divisional police commander North SSP Verani Nakauyaca, had to be cautious when retrieving the body.

The team started work from midday and pursued their rescue mission into the dark hours in rainy conditions using torches as their lights.

And when their job was completed last night, the team including police forensics and pathologists spent the night at Delaikoro with the bodies packed in body bags.

Acting deputy commissioner of police Rusiate Tudravu said the nature of their work was as such.

"It wasn't easy retrieving the bodies and certainly not an easy exercise considering the rough terrain and the hazardous area they worked in," he said.

"However, that is the nature of our work and we will get to do our jobs no matter what the circumstances are or the environment. People will understand that these officers will always perform their duties and provide services to the people no matter what."

ADCP Tudravu said it was not easy to work under certain conditions, but the team has been brave and courageous.

Tui Macuata Ratu Wiliame Katonivere congratulated the recovery team for their commitment.

"I take my hat off to the boys for doing a superb job in attending to the tragic incident that has shocked the nation," he said.

"It's not easy doing that kind of job working from the mountain top and basically working in the air to retrieve the bodies of the two. The villagers are to be also commended for their dedication and commitment in working with police and law enforcers in the search operation."

Last night DPC North SSP Verani Nakauyaca confirmed that despite challenges posed by the rugged terrain and the location of the wreckage, the efforts by police, RFMF, NFA and villagers have managed to carefully retrieve the bodies of the two victims from the wreckage.

"Due to nightfall, attempts to bring the victims' bodies back down to an area that can be accessed by road to enable the transportation to the Labasa Hospital where the post-mortem examination will be conducted has been called off as it will pose an immediate safety concern for the operation team," he said.

"The families of the victims will be flying over tomorrow to identify their loved ones before the post-mortem examination is conducted.

"Officers continue to guard the scene throughout the night and will do so until the arrival of the New Zealand appointed investigator."

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