Samui airport reopens this afternoon

Samui airport reopens this afternoon

Samui Airport remained closed, this morning, but was due to reopen at 1400 to commercial flights.

It was closed to allow rescue teams to remove the wreckage of a disabled ATR 72 that collided with a former control tower, yesterday afternoon.

The captain died instantly on impact and 10 passengers, including crew, were hospitalised.

Civil Aviation authorities temporarily closed the airport, while they carried out an initial investigation and verified that the airport was safe to reopen to commercial flight.
Bangkok Airways crash

Bangkok Airways skidded off the runway, AP photo

Bangkok Airways had flights on standby throughout the night at Surat Thani Airport to transfer stranded passengers between Surat Thani Airport and Bangkok.

This morning, Bangkok Airways re-routed eight flights, bound for Samui, to the mainland airport at Surat Thani transferring passengers to and from the island by bus and ferry.

President of Bangkok Airways, Captain Puttipong Prasattong-Osoth, visited Samui, earlier today, for an inspection, as well as to visit seven passengers who are being treated at Bangkok Samui Hospital. Uninjured passengers were transferred to their hotels on Samui, but have access to medical care in case of stress, or post accident trauma.

Most of the 68 passengers on board were foreigners.

Mr Prasaththong-osot, at a press conference, yesterday evening, reported that PG 266 slid off the Samui airport runway and crashed into a disused control tower. The front of the aircraft was badly damaged resulting in the death of Flight Captain Chatchai Punsuvan. Of the 72 people on board, seven passengers and three crew members were injured. Five passengers suffered major injuries and two minor injuries. The co-pilot was seriously injured and was the last person to be evacuated from the aircraft. Two cabin attendants also suffered minor injuries.

Bangkok Airways reported it has full insurance cover with Bangkok Insurance for passengers and aircraft damage.

The cause of the accident has still to be determined, but initial observations suggest the aircraft landed in stormy conditions, with strong cross winds, that caused the aircraft to skid off the runway and hit a disused control tower.

The twin-prop, 70-seat, ATR 72 joined the fleet in July 2001. The 58- year old captain had 14 years flying experience on ATRs and had served with Bangkok Airways for 19 years.

Internet news sites were already alluding to the One-Two-Go accident, 16 September, 2007, in Phuket, where a MD-82 aircraft skidded off the runway and slammed into an earth embankment killing 90 passengers. Strong cross winds were blamed for that accident.

Bangkok Airways' only previous fatal accident was also at Samui Airport, 21 November, 1990, when a 38-seat de-Havilland Dash 8 crashed on its final approach to the airport, killing all 38 passengers and crew on board. Reports suggested heavy rain and strong winds caused the plane to crash into a hillside beyond the runway.

Strong winds gusts are common in southern Thailand during July to September when the southwest monsoon sweeps in from the Andaman Sea.

During yesterday's press conference the airline's CEO stated: "To restore confidence, we have to show that we have a excellent safety record. For this unfortunate event, we will have to find out the actual cause and address any problem. I am confident that we are still a very safe airline."

Samui Airport re-opened early this afternoon with the first departure on PG 100 leaving Samui at 1400 and arriving at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport at 1500. The first departure from Suvarnabhumi Airport was PG 153 at 1400 with an arrival in Samui at 1500.

Today's flight movements in and out of Samui Airport are as follows: Bangkok-Samui 16 flights; Samui-Bangkok 17 flights; Samui-Phuket 1 flight; Phuket-Samui 1 flight; Utapao-Samui 1 flight; Samui-Utapao 1 flight; Samui-Singapore 2 flights; Singapore-Samui 2 flights; Samui-Hong Kong 1 flight; and Hong Kong-Samui 1 flight.

The emergency call centre is 66 2 265 8777.