Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Mountain rescue latest: Thai helicopter pilot safe

The Thai co-pilot of a helicopter that disappeared on Hkakabo Razi in Kachin State is now safe and receiving treatment, according to a spokesperson for the Htoo Foundation.

“Today at 8am, our rescue team found [Thai co-pilot Capt. Chatchawal] in the jungle,” said Phyo Ko Ko Thet. “The Burmese co-pilot is still missing. He will be waiting for us to rescue him.”

The Thai helicopter left Putao on 27 September with three crew members to drop off supplies to a rescue team searching for Burmese mountaineers who disappeared on 31 August shortly after reaching the summit of Kachin State’s Mount Hkakabo Razi, the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia. The helicopter crew consisted of a Burmese guide, a co-pilot from Burma and a co-pilot from Thailand.

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 or crashed.


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.”

Despite his reported injury, 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 Wednesday morning, according to a statement released on the foundation’s website the same day.

The statement said that Burmese co-pilot Aung Myat Toe had suffered eye injuries and has been staying in a cave in the woods. The Htoo Foundation added that another rescue team is currently searching for the Burmese co-pilot and that arrangements have been made for an aircraft to be held on standby at Putao airport in case medical emergencies arise.


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