Cambodian Pilot’s Body Repatriated; Family to Be Compensated

The body of Yung Sam, the Cambodian pilot of the Lao Airlines flight that crashed on Wednesday, killing all 49 passengers and crew aboard, was flown back to Phnom Penh on Saturday, and was set to be cremated at his home in Kandal province Sunday evening, local officials said.

A Lao Airlines official said that the airline would also compensate the 58-year-old pilot’s family.

All 44 passengers and five crew members perished when Lao Airlines flight QV301 went down in the Mekong River in Southern Laos en route from Vientiane to Pakse at about 4 p.m. on Wednes­day. Ac­cording to Reuters, an airline official blamed bad weather for the crash just 8 km short of the airport in Pakse.

Yav Leng, chief of Kompong Samnanh commune in Takhmao city, said that Yung Sam’s body was flown from Laos to Phnom Penh at noon on Saturday—the same day it was pulled from the Mekong River in Laos—and transported to his family’s home.

“The family held a funeral on Saturday afternoon,” Mr. Leng said, adding that Yung Sam—who left behind a wife, two daughters and a son—had been a pilot for 30 years and was employed by Lao Airlines for just under a year.

Kompong Samnanh village chief Hang Saroeun said Yung Sam’s body was scheduled to be cremated at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Ngonphachanh Souphavady, a representative of Lao Airlines who works at Phnom Penh International Airport, said that airline officials intended to be present at the cremation Sunday evening, and that the family would be compensated by the airline.

“[I’m] not sure when,” Ms. Souphavady said, declining to comment further.

Say Sokhan, undersecretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), Cambodia’s aviation regulator, said that according to the international aviation conventions, an airline’s insurer is required to compensate the family of those hurt or killed in a crash.

“The insurance company of the airline will pay compensation [to Yung Sam’s family],” Mr. Sokhan said.

The families of five Cambodians killed in 2007 when PMT Air flight U4 241 crashed into a mountain in Kampot province en route to Sihanoukville from Siem Reap, however, have yet to receive any compensation more than six years after the loss of their kin.

PMT, which began operations out of Phnom Penh in 2003, suspended flights in 2008. Aviation officials have declined to name the airline’s insurer, and complaints filed by the Cambodian families have gone unanswered.

Long Cheng, chief of SSCA Secretary of State Mao Havanall’s cabinet, said that the PMT crash case is ongoing in a Korean court, declining to elaborate.

When the case is concluded, Mr. Cheng said, “the government of Cambodia will compensate the Cambodian families.”

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