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A Burmese helicopter pilot injured in an emergency landing on 27 September was found dead in a remote Kachin State forest on Thursday by a rescue team, according to the Htoo Foundation, sponsors of the ill-fated expedition.
The pilot, Capt. Aung Myat Toe, was part of a three-person crew that also included a Thai pilot and Burmese guide Shwe Yin Taw Gyi. The Thai pilot and Burmese guide didn’t sustain any serious injuries and managed to find a rescue camp after walking for several days through mountainous terrain.
Speaking to DVB on Thursday, Htoo Foundation spokesperson Phyo Ko Ko Thet confirmed that the Burmese pilot’s body had been found: “They found his body around 4pm,” he said. “The Htoo Foundation team followed Shwe Yin Taw Gyi’s lead to the spot where he parted company with Capt. Aung Myat Toe and there they found his clothing and some items. Sadly they found his body as they continued their search around that spot.”
The spokesperson added that Aung Myat Toe’s wife is currently in Putao, the northernmost town in Kachin State, and that a funeral for the pilot will be held shortly.
Shortly after his body was found on Thursday, an obituary for the pilot was posted on the Htoo Foundation’s Facebook page:
“The rescue team of Htoo Foundation found tragically the corpse of Myanmar pilot U Aung Myat Toe in the woods [this afternoon] about 4pm. The Htoo Foundation tried wholeheartedly to search and rescue [for] three persons on board the missing B4 rescue chopper since 27 September.”
The three-person helicopter crew was assigned re-supply rescue teams involved in an international effort to find two mountaineers—Aung Myint Myat and Wai Yan Min Thu—who had lost contact with their trekking party on 31 August shortly after reaching the summit of Hkakabo Razai, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia.
However, soon after taking off the helicopter lost contact with ground control and was forced to make an emergency landing due to bad weather. According to AFP, the president of the Thai company which sent the chopper held a press conference on Thursday in Bangkok where he said, “It was an emergency landing, not a crash, and damages occurred to the helicopter. I don’t know yet how serious the damages were or whether or not it can be flown back.”
The Htoo Foundation, which sponsored the expedition and was founded by Burmese billionaire Tay Za, reported on 7 October that Burmese guide Shwe Yin Taw Gyi managed to find a rescue camp after walking from a remote village called Lan Sar, which presumably is located near the site where the helicopter was either forced to make an emergency landing. The report mistakenly announced that all three crew members were safe.
Aside from serving as a mountain guide and Tay Zaw’s personal assistant, Shwe Yin Taw Gyi is the nephew of Nyima Gyaltsen (aka Aung Tse), an ethnic Tibetan who became famous for being the first Burmese citizen to reach the summit of Hkakabo Razi. He reached the summit alongside his trekking partner Takashi Ozaki, a Japanese mountaineer who later died while attempting to scale Mount Everest.
On 7 October, the Htoo Foundation website said that upon seeing his long-time friend foundation Tay Zaw was ecstatic, quoting the tycoon-turned philanthropist as saying: “My heart was overwhelmed with joy when I saw my personal assistant U Shwe Yin Taw Gyi … He told me that he walked ahead of the two pilots as both of them suffered injuries.”
The Thai co-pilot Captain Chatchawal also managed to endure the long trek from Lan Sar Village (also called Lanka Village) through mountainous terrain and emerged from the jungle on 8 October, according to a statement released on the foundation’s website the same day.