Police in Kampot province said they are searching for an airplane that reportedly crashed Tuesday morning near Bokor Mountain, but aviation officials cast doubt on whether an aircraft had gone down at all.
Kong Manny, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Air Force, said Tuesday morning that a small aircraft manned by foreigners had crashed in Kampot province at 10:30 am, but he later said he could neither confirm nor deny the reported crash.
Chhuk district police Chief Prumb Vesna said he sent nine police officers into the forest near Bokor Mountain to search for a possible crashed aircraft after receiving reports from local villagers, though the officers were soon out of radio contact.
The officers were still out of radio contact as of Tuesday evening, Prumb Vesna said.
Kampot provincial police Chief In Chiva confirmed that police officers were searching for a supposed crashed aircraft.
“We sent our police to that location, but they have not yet reached it because it is a very thick forest,” In Chiva said by telephone.
Along with the villagers’ accounts of hearing the loud sound of a plane crash, Bokor National Park Director Chey Yutharith said by telephone that park rangers saw a plane fly within 300 meters of the top of Bokor Mountain trailing smoke before disappearing from sight.
“We [then] heard the sound of the plane crash,” Chey Yutharith said.
Aviation officials, however, said there was no reason to believe an aircraft had crashed.
Mao Havanall, secretary of state for the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, said air traffic control at Phnom Penh International Airport had no news of a downed aircraft or evidence of any missing aircraft.
“It’s just a rumor,” he said by telephone Tuesday evening.
Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports, the operator of Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, had no knowledge of the incident, SCA spokesman Khek Norinda said.
Officials from Wildlife Alliance, Mission Aviation Fellowship, Helicopters Cambodia and Sokha Helicopters each said their aircraft were all accounted for.
Kevin Treloar, general manager of Helicopters Cambodia, said flight control in Cambodia is sophisticated enough that if neither the SSCA nor the airports knew of a missing aircraft then a crash was very unlikely.
“Unless it was a UFO or something,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Kurczy)