free web hosting | free hosting | Business Web Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting
Tuesday June 27 3:29 AM ET

15 Dead in Laos Helicopter Crash

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON, Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - A passenger helicopter crashed into a remote mountain in Laos, killing at least 15 people, officials said Tuesday.

The crash Sunday was believed to have been caused by bad weather, said Somjit Chandrarangsi, manager of national carrier Lao Aviation.

The helicopter was traveling on a regular route between Xaysomboune and Xieng Khouang provinces with about 15 people aboard, none of them foreigners, he said. All were assumed to have died, but authorities had not yet reached the crash site because of the hazardous terrain and bad weather, he said.

The helicopter crashed in an area where anti-government ethnic Hmong insurgents are active.

Laotian authorities believe the crash site is at the side of a remote mountain north of Long Tieng about 94 miles north of the capital of Vientiane.

Foreign embassies and international organizations in Laos have issued warnings in recent years about Lao Aviation's safety standards and advise against travel on domestic flights.

A small Lao Aviation turbo-propeller plane crashed into a mountain en route to Xieng Khouang from Vientiane in 1993, killing all 17 people on board.

A Laotian military jet carrying a high-level Vietnamese military delegation crashed over Xieng Khouang province in May 1998, killing 26 people including the army chief of staff. The crash prompted speculation of an attack by Hmong rebels, but the communist regime did not blame them.

The secretive Laotian government has volunteered little information about its fight against Hmong guerrillas since taking power in 1975.

A recent spate of bombings in usually placid Vientiane has been blamed on the Hmong resistance, although some analysts have questioned whether Hmong would be able to penetrate so easily into the capital.