Closure For Family

The discovery of a plane wreckage has given the family of flying instructor Iliesa Tawalo a sense of closure. Mosese Baledrokadroka, Mr Tawalo’s stepfather, said yesterday: “I have finally accepted
01 Mar 2018 10:44
Closure For Family
Step father Mosese Baledrokadroka shares moments that he had with his son . Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

The discovery of a plane wreckage has given the family of flying instructor Iliesa Tawalo a sense of closure.

Mosese Baledrokadroka, Mr Tawalo’s stepfather, said yesterday: “I have finally accepted the outcome of the situation as the wreckage had been found. It was in God’s hands although it is not easy to cope with it during this time.

“I thank those who participated in the search party as they are serving the call of the Government. Not forgetting those who kept us in their prayers. I pray to God for his blessing and safekeeping of their families.”

The late Mr Tawalo and student Merelesita Lutu were on a routine Pacific Flying School (PFS) training flight when it crashed at Delaikoro mountain in Macuata on Monday.

Members of the immediate Lutu family were in no position to speak yesterday. However, a close relative of the family revealed that the tragedy had hit Ms Lutu’s mother hard.

The late 21-year-old trainee pilot who was known to family members as “Salau” and described as “very humble, caring, smart, and was always smiling.”

Ms Lutu was from Nagigi in Savusavu and had maternal links to Ra.

She attended Holy Trinity Anglican School in McGregor Road in Suva and went on to

complete her high school education at St Joseph’s Secondary School, Suva.

PFS managing director and owner Tim Joyce said their deaths were shocking and depressing.

“The student was very close to finishing school and she was a personal friend as well,” Mr Joyce said.

He said he had flown over the crash site and acknowledged that the search teams had been searching the same area for three days under very difficult circumstances.

Police confirmed that the missing Cessna 172 aircraft, Registration DQ-FTR was found by an aerial search team in very rugged terrain near Delaikoro Mountain in Vanua Levu, not far from Labasa Airport.

Mr Baledrokadroka praised the efforts of the Fijian Government for appointing a New Zealand-based Air Accident Investigator, Andrew McGregor, as the independent investigator to determine the cause of the crash.

“This is a good call, we need a thorough investigation to be carried out on what happened on that flight so that such an accident does not happen again in the future,” he said.

Mr Baledrokadroka said the families would be meeting later in the week to confirm funeral arrangements.

A statement obtained from the PFS said: “PFS deeply regrets to advise, that tragically, there are no survivors. We are unable to speculate on the cause of the accident but a full investigation will be carried out and details will be released at the appropriate time.”

It said that recovery operations had commenced and would continue today.

A delegation from PFS has visited the family members of the deceased to convey their deepest sympathies and offer support.

“Everyone at Pacific Flying School and the Joyce Aviation Group is deeply shocked and saddened by this tragic news and our thoughts and prayers are with the families, fellow students, friends and work colleagues of the Flying Instructor and Student Pilot who were on board the aircraft.

“PFS respects the privacy of the families and will not be making any further public comments at this time.”

Remains of the duo will be removed from the crash site today.

A forensic and pathology team will make its way to the crash site at first light today. They will be followed by New Zealand-based Air Accident Investigator, Mr McGregor, who has been commissioned to investigate the fatal aircraft crash.

The Fiji Maritime Surveillance Rescue Coordination Centre (FMSRCC) confirmed that an aerial shot which showed the Cessna 172 hanging off a cliff onto tree tops and circulating on social media was authentic.

Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Rusiate Tudravu confirmed that the news had been relayed to the family of the victims.

A joint search team consisting of officers from the Fiji Police Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) had reached the crash site and confirmed discovery of the two victims.

Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Superintendent of Police Mesake Waqa has been tasked with overseeing the first phase of investigations.

“Efforts are currently being co-ordinated through the Search and Rescue (SAR) Command Centre will now focus on securing the crash site for the arrival of the appointed New Zealand-based Air Accident Investigator,” Mr Tudravu said.

He said the focus now shifts to the investigation into the circumstances leading up to the tragic incident.

A senior Fiji Airways pilot and former PFS student said the Cessna 172 planes were known to be very safe aircraft.

“Those Cessna 172 are very versatile aeroplanes. They are well-known for training a lot of pilots, and I did quite a bit of flying in those planes,” he said.

He said instructors taught students what’s needed to be done as they were the ones with the experience.

“For us pilots, this is something that is very close to our heart. This sort of thing is quite dark, three of my friends died in Air Fiji Flight 121 (PC121) and it brings those kinds of memories back to us,” he said.

The senior pilot gave condolences to the families.

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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