DAWEI, Myanmar (AP) — Fishermen joined navy and air force personnel Thursday in recovering bodies and aircraft parts from the sea off Myanmar, where a military plane carrying 122 people including 15 children crashed a day earlier, officials said.
The four-engine Chinese-made Y-8 turboprop aircraft had left Myeik, also known as Mergui, heading for Yangon on a route over the Andaman Sea. It was raining, but not heavily, at the time contact was lost with it at 1:35 p.m. Wednesday, when it was southwest of the city of Dawei, formerly known as Tavoy.
Win Lwin, a police officer in Laung Lone township, a landing point for recovery operations, said 28 bodies had been retrieved by mid-afternoon Thursday but had not yet made it to shore. More than 1,000 people gathered on the beach, including volunteers from dozens of community mutual aid societies with their vehicles.
The bodies were taken on larger boats and navy ships, and were supposed to be transferred to smaller vessels that could be offloaded at the beach in Laung Lone. However, heavy rains and choppy seas delayed the transfer.
Military spokesman Gen. Myat Min Oo earlier said a navy ship had found two life jackets, bodies and an aircraft wheel in the sea west of Laung Lone.
Local fishermen joined nine navy ships, five military aircraft and three helicopters in the search, the spokesman said.
The plane carried 108 passengers — mostly military personnel and their families — and 14 crew members, according to an announcement on the Facebook page of military Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, which originally gave slightly lower numbers. Fifteen of the passengers were children. It is not unusual for such flights to carry civilians to offset transportation costs for military families stationed in the somewhat remote south.
The Facebook page, the main source of official information about the crash, said the plane, carrying about 2.4 tons of cargo in addition to the 122 people aboard, was received in March last year and since then had logged 809 flying hours. It said the pilot and co-pilot both had more than 3,100 hours of flying experience.
The area is about 440 miles (700 kilometers) north of the last primary radar contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished on a flight from Malaysia to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. That plane is believed to have flown far off course and crashed into a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean.