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Chinese tourists killed in Pacific air accident

2013-10-08 09:57 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

Two Chinese tourists and a local pilot were killed when a light aircraft crashed after taking off from West Tinian Airport in the Pacific for Saipan Island early on Sunday morning.

Another four Chinese people aboard the aircraft were injured in the crash. All six passengers in the plane, operated by Star Marianas Air, were tourists from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, according to a statement on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on Sunday.

The four injured were sent to hospitals in Saipan, but are not in a critical condition, the statement said.

The seven-seater plane crashed at about 2 am local time on Sunday as it was flying from Tinian to Saipan, two of the biggest islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

News of the crash spread online after an Internet user with the name Tianshichengyaoyao wrote a post on the Weibo micro blog service saying that contact had been lost with a small plane flying between Tinian and Saipan on Sunday morning.

According to comments made by other netizens following the post, one of the dead was a woman from Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, who was on honeymoon. Her husband was still being treated late on Sunday.

Another Internet user, Yokiyu Xiongmaomama, who said she was a passenger in another small plane that took off after the crash, said on Weibo later that the weather had not been very good and the airport had stopped operating from midnight on Saturday to early on Sunday morning.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. China Daily was unable to reach the victims' family members for comment on Monday.

It was the second Star Marianas plane to crash in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in less than a year.

A female tourist from Jiaxing in Zhejiang province was killed and six others injured when a Star Marianas plane crashed on Saipan on Nov 19, 2012. The plane was heading for Tinian when it crashed shortly after taking off.

Tinian, known for its casino, is only a 15-minute flight from Saipan, the largest holiday resort island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Tourists usually travel between the two islands in small planes.

With more Chinese looking to spend their holidays overseas, some travel agencies have introduced six-day package tours to Tinian and Saipan, including a free return-flight between the two islands.

Liu Xin, deputy general manager of Shanghai China CYTS Outbound Travel Service, which offers individual trips to Tinian and Saipan instead of one package, said: "Certain travel agencies scheduled a combined travel package to Saipan and Tinian islands to attract more tourists.

"But we have never arranged this type of trip, as the plane flying between the islands is quite small, with poor safety features."

Liu said that all services, including hotel reservations and overseas flights, are arranged by travel agencies abroad, and Chinese travel agencies cannot make any changes to the schedule.

It was the second plane crash to claim the lives of Chinese tourists during the week-long National Day holiday.

On Thursday, a Chinese tourist and a pilot were confirmed dead after an ultra-light plane crashed in Pokhara, Nepal.

Police in Nepal said the two-seater aircraft, belonging to Avia Club Pokhara, crashed near Shanti Stupa, a well-known tourist attraction in the city, at 9:30 am.

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