HK man dies in air disaster

A HONGKONG man was among the 59 people killed in China's latest air disaster.

Named as S. P. Pan, the businessman was one of the 108 passengers and five crew on board the China Northwestern Airlines flight 2119 to Beijing, that crashed into marshland on Friday shortly after a second take-off attempt. Most of the passengers were from the mainland.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers continue searching through the wreckage and doctors work round-the-clock to perform emergency surgery on severely injured passengers.

The British Aerospace 146 Whisperjet careered off the runway in the northwestern town of Yinchuan in Ningxia province, into a shallow lake where it broke apart.

The aircraft attempted two takeoffs. After the first one was aborted at 2.20 pm local time, the pilots attempted a second at 2.41 pm.

''The plane never got more than 10 metres off the ground before it dropped,'' said Zhang Rong, an official from the state-run Civil Aviation Administration of China who witnessed the crash. ''There was no explosion, but the plane was badly damaged.'' Witnesses said the weather was fine and clear.


The crash is the latest in a serious of accidents involving mainland airlines that have raised serious questions about China's safety standards.

Vice-Premier Zou Jiahua and top Chinese airline officials flew to Yinchuan, about a three-hour flight from Beijing, to inspect the damage and investigate its cause.

There was no immediate explanation why the plane crashed or why its first take-off attempt failed.

Search teams concentrated their efforts yesterday on finding the aircraft's flight recorder or black box, which should reveal the cause of the crash.


Yinchuan is a popular tourist destination near the Great Wall but it is in a remote desert region.

Mr Pan worked for the Hongkong-based company Euro Tech (Far East) Ltd., and was accompanying English businessman William Goldsworthy, 54, who was also killed in the accident.


From Lancashire in the north of England, Mr Goldsworthy was alive when he was rescued from the wreckage but died an hour later in hospital from heart and lung failure. He was married with two daughters.

Mr Goldsworthy, a technical director of Iddon Brothers Ltd, in Britain, travelled from Beijing to Yinchuan on Tuesday to conduct technical exchanges with a local rubber factory.

An Indonesian and a Frenchman are now known to be among the 48 injured in the crash, which ends China's seven-month run without a major aviation disaster.


Aviation safety has become a growing concern for the mainland as passenger traffic leapt 33 per cent last year and is set to rise a further 20 per cent this year.

British Aerospace experts are already at the site and a further team is on its way from Britain.

Beijing television showed the plane's fuselage in about six pieces, with smaller pieces of twisted wreckage scattered over a large area.


The cockpit was detached from the fuselage and was lying on its side semi-submerged in swamp water.

More than 100 military personnel combed the crash site looking for survivors, as officials stood on one of the wings surveying the wreckage and, later, visited some of the survivors in hospital.

The injured were transferred to up to 15 different hospitals as the town's emergency services were stretched to the limit.

More than 40 were taken to the People's Hospital, which set up a haphazard crisis command centre. More than 24 hours after the crash, relatives were still being given conflicting information on whether passengers were alive or dead.

One doctor said: ''We are too busy trying to save the lives of the injured to stop to talk.'' A member of staff in the emergency room added: ''The Englishman arrived in the hospital with about 10 local passengers and about seven to eight of them were badly injured and died later.

''A Frenchman is in satisfactory condition but will stay in the hospital.'' The dead were taken to the Ningxia Funeral Home where a worker said last night they had 55 bodies in the parlour.