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Vietnamese Experts Arrive To Help Investigate Crash

September 10, 1988

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Investigators today examined the wreckage of a Vietnamese jetliner to try to determine what caused the plane to crash minutes before its scheduled landing. Seventy-five people, including some government officials, were killed.

One of the pilots of Air Vietnam Flight 831 reported it was struck by lightning, said Tran Van Viet, third secretary of the Vietnamese Embassy. The pilot, Khong Din Phuong, was the only one of the six survivors who was conscious.

The Soviet-made Tu-134 slammed into a rice field four miles short of Bangkok’s airport Friday and blew up. The crash occurred during a thunderstorm, three minutes before the jet was scheduled to land after a flight from Hanoi.

Vietnamese investigators flew to Thailand to help Thai officials in the probe.

Voice and flight recorders were retrieved from the wreckage, said Maj. Gen. Sopol Savigamin, a regional police commander. The cockpit recorder contains conversation between the crew and the airport control tower, and the flight recorder contains flight data.

The passenger list included 50 Vietnamese, 11 Indians, eight Poles, three Japanese, three Frenchmen, two Finns, two Swedes, one Burmese and two others of unknown nationality. That totals 82, but one person did not board the plane.

Nguyen Van Quan, a Vietnamese Embassy official, said the dead included Vietnam’s Minister of Public Health, Dang Hoi Huan, and its ambassador- designate to the Philippines, Nguyen Dhuong Vu, who was on the way to take up his post.

Quan said other Vietnamese victims included many lower-ranking government officials on their way to conferences in Thailand, Japan and other countries.

India’s ambassador to Vietnam, Arun Patwardhan, 48, was killed along with seven other officials of India’s Hanoi embassy, an Indian consular officer in Bangkok said.

The Japanese Embassy in Bangkok said the second secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Hanoi, Kiyokata Ida, and two Japanese businessmen were killed.

Details on other victims were not available.

Sopol said workers retrieved 75 bodies Friday. A Frenchman, a Polish woman, the pilot and three other Vietnamese remained in intensive care at Bhumibol Hospital.

Hundreds of police, air force workers and volunteers hauled bodies from a rice paddy, wrapping them in the thin beige-colored cloth. The last two bodies, those of a man and a woman, were found lying by lily pads after workers pumped the pond dry.

Scattered over the area were earrings, a shell necklace, toy plastic gun, seat cushions, backpacks, passports and more than 10 bags of diplomatic mail for the Australian Embassy in Bangkok.

The twin-engine Tu-134 is the Vietnamese flag carrier’s mainstay aircraft.

According to Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft, Tu-134s seat from 80 to 96 people. Vietnamese officials have said they would like to switch to Boeings, Airbuses and other newer, Western-made planes but do not have the money.

Update hourly