Five international NGO staff and the pilot survived a crash landing of their chartered plane in a rice field Friday in Stung Treng province.
The six-seat Cessna 206 chartered by Medecins Sans Frontieres crashed into a field in Siembok village shortly after taking off from Stung Treng airport, 245 kilometers northeast of Phnom Penh, said MSF’s country director, Maurits van Pelt, who was on board.
“It was a miracle,” van Pelt said Sunday. “The pilot did an excellent job.”
The plane developed engine trouble at 1,800 meters about 15 minutes after departure, the pilot said Sunday. The pilot, Winston Ussher, an Australian, made an emergency landing, with the plane hitting the ground tail-first and then flipping over. Farmers working in fields nearby rushed over to help. “By the time we had the door open, they were there, looking amazed,” Ussher said.
Dr Dominique Lapiere and MSF’s human resource manager, Patricia Foucault, both sitting in the rear of the plane, suffered minor head injuries and required stitches.
After the crash, the passengers and pilot were assisted by farmers and walked to a nearest village, where they rented a boat and returned to Stung Treng town, about 30 km north.
The next day, a military helicopter flew to Stung Treng with a National Disaster Committee team headed by Nhim Vanda, and took the group back to Phnom Penh.
The MSF staff had been on their way back to Phnom Penh from Stung Treng following a year-end meeting with local medical teams.
The crashed plane was owned and operated by the non-profit Mission Aviation Fellowship of Phnom Penh. MSF is considered the largest NGO working in the health sector.