Crashed Helicopter’s ‘Black Box’ Still Not Found

The “black box” containing vital information about the final minutes of the helicopter that crashed in Phnom Penh on Monday killing four people has yet to be recovered, Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat said Tuesday.

A Chinese-built Z-9 helicopter crashed into the waters of a flooded sand quarry in the city’s southwest during a routine pilot training exercise at about 9 a.m. on Monday, killing a deputy Air Force commander and three other officers.

The bodies of the four as well as most of the destroyed aircraft were recovered from the water that afternoon.

“We have not found the black box yet. Now we are continuing to search for it,” General Sucheat said Tuesday.

He added that there were no other leads in the military’s efforts to find an explanation for the crash.

Video footage captured by witnesses shows the helicopter about to land on the ridge of the deep valley before inexplicably rising and careening down into its waters.

Air Force commander Soeng Samnang said that when the black box data is recovered it will be sent to China, from where the government purchased the Z-9 helicopter last year.

“We cannot immediately evaluate this incident. We need a lot more time,” he said. “We will send the data for study at the factory that produced the helicopter.”

“We cannot take the claims of the witnesses and survivor to be official because everything is in that black box.”

Yin Sokha, also a deputy commander of the Air Force, said the black box would be sent to China because Cambodia does not have the facilities to analyze such data.

Lieutenant General Sokha said the bodies of three of the dead officers—Brigadier General Ieng Channarith, Major Than Vandy and Major Kham Bunan—will be cremated at Pochentong Air Base today. The family of Major General Ouk Ponaha will hold a separate private funeral for the officer at his family home in Phnom Penh.

Sar Serey, 29, a cousin of the only survivor, pilot cadet Cheng Soksambo, 27, said government officials and the Cambodian Red Cross had come to offer donations Tuesday.

“Many ministries donated aid totaling more than 10 million riel [about $2,500] and more than 10 boxes of fruit juice and water,” said Mr. Serey from the hospital.

Mr. Soksambo did not sustain major injuries in the crash, his doctors say, and is expected to recover within the week.

sovuthy@cambodiadaily.com

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