Military searchers found no survivors Wednesday in the wreckage of a tourist plane that went down in Cambodia's southern mountains earlier this week, after a two-day search in monsoon weather. A rescue team retrieved the bodies of victims, including 13 South Korean and 3 Czech tourists, and transported them to Phnom Penh, where some family members were waiting.
The first 15 bodies were flown by helicopter to the Cambodia-Soviet Friendship hospital in Phnom Penh for examination and identification, officials said. Rescue teams were working late Wednesday night to remove seven more bodies tangled in the wreckage.
The final seven corpses were expected to arrive in Phnom Penh late Wednesday, said Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management.
"We have transported 15 bodies to the Cambodia-Soviet Friendship hospital," he said. "In the next 15 minutes, the rest will come to the hospital, totaling 22 bodies."
The bodies were intact, with broken legs and arms, "their bodies flattened against the plane's fuselage," Nhim Vanda said.
The Russian-made AN-24 turbo prop crashed in heavy rain Monday, flying a newly opened tourist route from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville on the southern coast. Five Cambodian crew and a Uzbek crew chief were also on board.
"This is a tragedy no one should have to experience," Prime Minister Hun Sen said at a press conference in Kampot province, where search efforts were coordinated. "The discovery of the site reduces parts of our pain and our mourning."
A helicopter spotting team discovered the wreckage Wednesday morning, as fog lifted on the jungle slopes of Bokor Mountain, part of the Elephant Mountain chain on the southwest coast. Up to 1,000 soldiers, led by Nhim Vanda and including some of Hun Sen's elite body guard unit, searched on foot in the rugged terrain.
Officials said foul weather likely led to the crash. The company operating the flight, Progress Multitrade, has received safety warnings in the past, but aviation officials told the Cambodia Daily it was now safe.
South Korean aviation authorities plan to hold "special safety checks" Friday on the next PMT Air flight due in Seoul, a South Korean Civil Aviation Safety Authority official told the Associated Press.
The flight data recorder would be sent to Russia for analysis, the Cambodia Daily reported.