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 Teams try to access plane crash victims

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PostSubject: Teams try to access plane crash victims   Teams try to access plane crash victims EmptyJune 23rd 2010, 11:51 am

Recovery teams are working around the clock to retrieve the bodies of six Australian mining executives from thick west African jungle in what has been described as an extraordinary effort.

The bodies of Sundance Resources' entire board and five other people remained on Wednesday at the site where their twin-engine chartered aircraft crashed in the Republic of Congo, killing all on board.

The wreckage of the CASA C-212 aircraft was found on a ridge in dense jungle on Monday afternoon (local time).

Lighting and recovery equipment was brought in on Tuesday night to cut open the plane to gain access to the bodies.

Australian mining contractors are using trucks and bulldozers to clear tracks to the site.

An area will then be cleared to allow a helicopter to land and fly the bodies to the country's capital, Brazzaville.

Sundance's caretaker chairman George Jones said he expected it to take another day before the bodies were flown from the site.

Recovery teams had begun preparing some of the bodies for evacuation but Mr Jones said it was difficult to access some of the 11 deceased.

"There are still bodies inside and they're cutting the plane apart to get to them.

"It's very difficult and not pleasant for the people on the ground but it's extraordinary what's been achieved so far, considering the location and difficulties involved."

Sundance chairman Geoff Wedlock, managing director Don Lewis, non-executive directors Ken Talbot, Craig Oliver and John Jones, and company secretary John Carr-Gregg were on the flight along with Mr Talbot's executive assistant, French citizen Natasha Flason.

Also aboard were the two pilots, a Briton and a Frenchman, a British passenger and US citizen Jeff Dunn whose company Dynamiq provides emergency and security management to Sundance.

The group was flying from Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, to Sundance's Mbalam iron ore project near Yangadou in the Republic of Congo when the plane went down on Saturday.

The jungle is so dense, French military personnel aiding the recovery effort have to rappel to the site from helicopters.

Peter Stening, the co-founder of Stening Simpson, the largest risk management firm in the Asia-Pacific region, said the area was so "extremely scary" it was lucky the wreckage was even found.

"If an aircraft of that size was to go down into that jungle and burn up, it could possibly never be found," Mr Stening told AAP.

"It's so incredibly dense, when you fly over you can't even see the ground."

Although Mr Jones was hopeful the recovery process would be quick, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has told families of the six executives to brace themselves for a long wait as their loved ones are formally identified.

"It is not yet clear when all the remains will be recovered from the crash site and transferred to Brazzaville. Once in Brazzaville, the process of identification will commence," a DFAT spokesman told AAP.

"This is likely to be a complex and painstaking exercise."

The spokesman said it may be necessary for the bodies to be moved to a third country to complete victim identification.

A team of experts will soon be in Brazzaville to ensure the bodies are repatriated as quickly as possible.

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