12 Jul 2012

Debris found in PNG search for missing helicopter

9:31 pm on 12 July 2012

Searchers looking for a New Zealander and two Australians missing in Papua New Guinea now believe the helicopter they were in has broken up.

New Zealand pilot Anthony Annan, 49, Australian pilot Russel Aitken, 42, and aircraft maintenance engineer Emmett Fynn, 36, were last heard from in a mayday call on Friday afternoon.

The men work for aviation charter company Hevilift and it is believed their Bell helicopter crashed in a thickly forested area in the Highlands region.

A villager searching a river in the area on Thursday morning found pieces of plastic that come from a kind of storage container usually kept in Hevilift helicopters.

Hevilift representative Ian McBeath says official searchers went to the river in the afternoon and found a second piece of the same kit.

Mr McBeath says regrettably, the broken pieces of container indicate that the helicopter has most likely crash-landed.

The search area has been narrowed significantly since the find, but there is still a large section of countryside to cover, he says.