Burmese Pilot Found Dead in Kachin State

By San Yamin Aung 9 October 2014

RANGOON — A Burmese pilot who went missing nearly two weeks ago in northern Kachin State was found dead on Thursday, rescue officials said.

Aung Myat Toe, 42, was one of three men aboard a helicopter delivering supplies to a rescue team searching for two climbers who went missing on Hkakabo Razi, largely thought to be Southeast Asia’s highest peak.

“The rescue team found him dead at around 4pm today [Thursday],” Phyo Ko Ko, a spokesperson for the Htoo Foundation, told The Irrawaddy. The Htoo Foundation, run by Burmese business tycoon Tay Za, has financed and coordinated efforts to find the missing mountaineers.

Phyo Ko Ko said that the rescue team spotted the man’s body in a forest ravine and ventured down to retrieve his remains. Aung Myat Toe appeared to have suffered injuries to the face and body, though the exact cause of death remains unclear.

Also aboard the ill-fated flight were Thai pilot Chatchawal and Shwe Yin Taw Gyi, Tay Za’s personal assistant. Shwe Yin Taw Gyi emerged alive in Lah Sar village on Tuesday, after walking ahead of the two injured pilots. He then led rescuers back into the forest, where Chatchawal was found alive on Wednesday morning and taken to Victoria Hospital in Rangoon where he is being treated for injuries.

The helicopter, which originated in Thailand, lost contact with ground control not long after taking off from the Putao airport in northern Kachin State. The aircraft was meant to make a short trip to Tahomdum village to drop off supplies for a team of search and rescue workers.

The rescue workers were deployed in early Sept. on a mission to find two Burmese climbers—Aung Myint Myat and Wai Yan Min Thu—who disappeared after separating from a team of eight and becoming the first Burmese nationals ever to reach the mountain’s summit on Aug. 31.

The Htoo Foundation announced over the weekend that the search for the two missing climbers would continue, while acknowledging that it was becoming increasingly unlikely that they would be found alive.