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Romanian PM orders probe of delay in finding plane

January 21, 2014

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s prime minister ordered an inquiry amid growing public anger Tuesday into why it took authorities hours to locate a plane that crashed into trees on a remote mountain, delaying the arrival of medical help. Two people later died.

The plane was transporting medics from Bucharest to western Romania to harvest organs for transplant when it came down at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level. All seven on board initially survived the landing, but sustained serious injuries.

Local forensic chief Gheorghe Vieru said pilot Adrian Iovan died of hypothermia and trauma from multiple fractures. Iovan, 54, was a well-known pilot with 16,000 hours of flying experience. Aurelia Ion, a 23-year-old fifth-year student who had volunteered to accompany the medics, died of hypothermia and breathing difficulties, Vieru said.

Radu Zamfir, a doctor who was the least severely injured, told reporters that the plane lost altitude and crashed into trees. He credited Iovan for saving the lives of those on board. “I saw the trees close, and that is all I remember.”

Officials said that the plane’s occupants burned clothes to keep warm in the freezing conditions.

Local residents located the stricken plane after 4 ½ hours but medical teams arrived hours later, reportedly due to authorities’ failure to initially locate the small craft. The delay has sparked criticism in Romania, with many saying that rescue services lacked basic modern equipment to search for the plane. Rescue efforts were also hampered by heavy snow and dense fog.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta ordered a report into the response to the emergency and was due to receive a preliminary report later Tuesday.

The five survivors, who suffered fractures, were hospitalized and are in stable condition.

Update hourly