Thursday, August 8, 2013

Locals hold up chopper

Thursday 08th August 2013
KAGUA District in the Southern Highlands Province is now declared a ‘No-Go Zone’ by local helicopter companies.
This followed an attack last week on one of PNG’s own fastest rising helicopter company, Heli Solutions Limited.
Heli Solutions chief executive officer (CEO) Captain Phil Emeck said yesterday from Mt Hagen that the company was currently engaged by PNG Electoral Commission for the LLG election operations in the Highlands region and it was doing its scheduled flights to Kagua and Erave districts when the incident happened. Capt Emeck who was flying one of the companies third Bell 407 helicopter was held up and threatened by heavily armed thugs reportedly under the influence of marijuana at the remote place at Katiloma Bible Mission station last Wednesday. He had stopped to refuel after dropping off an aviation fuel drum there earlier.
The incident happened after he arrived from Sembirigi and Marorogo areas after dropping off polling officials, ballot papers and boxes en-route for Mt Hagen.
He said it was about 1pm when locals numbering about 30, armed with bush knives and homemade guns surrounded him and his lone crew member demanding K10,000 or else they would damage the K7 million aircraft.
Captain Emeck offered the gang K1000 which he had in his pocket but was refused. They ordered Capt Emeck to leave his crew behind, go to Mt Hagen bring back the money in exchange for his crew.
Fearing that his life and that of his crew plus the aircraft was in danger he handed over K5000 which he had brought along for purchase of timber along the Highlands Highway. The group after some resistance took the money and released both men.
Capt Emeck is co-owner of the helicopter company together with fellow Southern Highlander Capt James Pilot. They are both former PNG Defence Force pilots who resigned to start their own aviation company. Capt Emeck described the incident as a ‘frightening and barbaric act’, adding that it is not the first time for culprits in the Kagua area to hijack or attack helicopters and planes.
They have reported the incident to Mendi police but due to its isolated location, police are yet to arrest the culprits involved.

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