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France to Send Investigators After Lao Air Crash Kills 49

France will send investigators to Laos to aid the probe of a plane crash yesterday that killed all 49 people on board, the world's deadliest air accident this year.

A turboprop plane operated by Lao Airlines, the Southeast Asian country’s national carrier, crashed after experiencing bad weather conditions while preparing to land at Pakse Airport in the south of the country, the airline said in a statement. There was “no news of survivors” after the aircraft packed with mostly foreign tourists plunged at the end of a domestic flight.

France is dispatching investigators because the ATR 72-600 turboprop plane is made by Avions de Transport Regional, a venture owned by Airbus SAS parent European Aeronautic, Space and Defense Co. and Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA. Lao Airlines was sending emergency crews to the site of the accident and expects to release its initial findings today, it said in the statement.

The plane, on a domestic flight from the capital Vientiane, crashed into the Mekong River while attempting to land at about 4 p.m. local time, the carrier said in the statement. The aircraft was delivered from the production line in March, the planemaker said separately.

The carrier flies to six international and six domestic destinations. Thailand’s Channel 3 television network broadcast footage of people pulling wreckage of the aircraft from the Mekong River.

Mostly Foreigners

French air safety investigators will send a team of four officials to Laos to participate in the probe. ATR technical experts are on their way to Pakse, the airline said separately.

A list provided by Thailand’s foreign ministry showed seven passengers from France, five Australians, five Thais, three Koreans, two Vietnamese, one American, one Chinese, one Taiwanese, one Canadian, and one Myanmar citizen were on board the flight, in addition to 17 Lao citizens.

The aircraft was carrying 44 passengers and five crew. Flight QV301 left the capital at 2:45 p.m. local time yesterday and was scheduled to arrive in Pakse at 3:55 p.m. The ATR turboprop can typically seat between 68 to 74 people.

It was the first crash for an ATR -600 model, the planemaker said. Deliveries of the upgraded type began in 2011.

The accident is the world’s worst this year in terms of fatalities, according to the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives website.

At least four bodies were found, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing a press conference by the airline.

Lao Airlines, established in 1976, operates Airbus SAS A320-214, Xi’an Aircraft Industry MA-6 and ATR-72-500 aircraft. The airline flies an ATR-72 twin-engine turboprop plane on the 467-kilometer (290-mile) route, according to the company’s website.

The crash prompted South Korea’s government to say it will inspect aircraft, cabin crew as well as the airline’s procedures on handling passengers and cargo, according to a statement from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Lao Airlines flies between Incheon airport, which serves Seoul, and Vientiane thrice weekly.

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