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All helicopters of Thai ministry grounded for safety check

08-19-2010 15:40 BJT

BANGKOK, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- The remaining 14 six-seater AS350 helicopters operated by Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry have been grounded for safety check after one crashed in northern Thailand on Tuesday, the Bangkok Post's website reported Thursday.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said on Thursday the AS350s, which were built and certificated in the United States, would not be allowed back in the air until they had been thoroughly checked.

Some parts of the helicopters have been recycled for use, Suwit admitted.

The air force is in charge of determining the cause of crash as it is believed a fact-finding committee would be set up to investigate, he said.

The ill-fated AS350 helicopter took off from an air base in the northern Phitsanulok province at about 7.30 a.m. on Tuesday, heading for Phu Phayak mountain in the northern Nan province's Chalerm Prakiat district, where three senior state officials were due to preside over a ceremony for a reforestration project.

The helicopter took off in heavy rain, lost contact with the air base and disappeared from the radar about 30 minutes later.

All five people aboard, including three state officials, and the pilot and flight engineer, were killed in the crash.

Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has 14 remaining AS350 helicopters, but only 12 are rated airworthy.

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Xinhua

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