5 Thais among 49 killed as Lao Airlines plane crashes into Mekong

5 Thais among 49 killed as Lao Airlines plane crashes into Mekong
This picture taken on February 25, 2011 shows a Lao Airline ATR-72 500 aircraft on the tarmac of Luang Prabang's airport, northern Laos.

Five Thais were among 49 passengers and crew killed when a twin-engine Lao Airlines plane plunged into the Mekong River yesterday as it attempted to land at an international airport in Laos' Champasak province, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said.

Some of the five Thais killed on the flight from Vientiane were reportedly employees of the Petroleum Authority of Thailand travelling to Champasak on a working visit, according to a senior PTT official.

Flight QV301 was scheduled to land at Pakse International Airport at 4pm. A well-informed source said the aviation control tower at Pakse Airport recommended the pilots not land at the airport because of the poor visibility caused by Typhoon Nari.

The storm has brought severe weather to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Despite the warning, the pilots insisted on attempting to land, but failed to do so because strong winds buffeted the aircraft. The pilots tried to raise the nose of the aircraft but were blown off course and crashed into a rocky island in the middle of the Mekong River about eight kilometres from the airport.

The aircraft broke into two parts on impact and sank into the river in Ponethong district of Champasak, which is opposite Thailand's Ubon Ratchathani province.

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