Copter crash: SAR ops extended from Sebuyau to Lingga

Fire and Rescue Department

SEBUYAU: The search area for the missing five on board a helicopter that is believed to have crashed yesterday, has been extended to between 50km and 100km from Sungai Batang Lupar to Lingga.

Sarawak Zone II Fire and Rescue Department chief Azman Julaihi, who is heading the department’s search and rescue operation said the location of the tragedy was believed to be around an area where the body of Deputy Minister Noriah Kasnon was found at noon today.

“Initially our search was around Sungai Batang Lupar near Sebuyau, a small coastal town situated about 220km from Kuching. The search will be expanded to between 50km and 100km,” he told Bernama.

Azman said assets needed for the operation would be increased according to needs of the search and rescue team from time to time.

Prime Minister Najib Razak during a press conference in Kuching, Sarawak today confirmed that a Eurocopter AS350 was reported missing yesterday after taking off from Betong at 4.12pm.

Six people were on board the helicopter, Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Noriah Kasnon; her husband Asmuni Abdullah; the ministry’s secretary-general Dr Sundaran Annamalai; Kuala Kangsar Member of Parliament Wan Muhammad Khair-il Anuar Wan Ahmad; Noriah’s bodyguard Ahmad Sobri Harun; and Filipino pilot Rudolf Rex Ragas.

The helicopter left Betong at 4.12pm yesterday and lost contact with the control tower three minutes later.

This morning, parts of the helicopter and a woman’s body were found by the search and rescue team in Sebuyau.

Azman said the search and rescue operation at the Sebuyau Ferry Jetty will be closed at 8pm and the operations shifted to Lingga near Sri Aman tomorrow, about 30km from Sebuyau.