Missing Helicopter Crew in Burma ‘Alive,’ Search Team Says

By San Yamin Aung 7 October 2014

RANGOON — All three occupants of a Thai helicopter enlisted in the hunt for two Burmese mountain climbers are alive, some 10 days after the aircraft went missing in northern Kachin State, according to the foundation organizing search efforts.

The helicopter carrying three people went missing on Sept. 27. Ground control lost contact with the aircraft not long after it took off from Putao headed for Tahomdum village, where it was attempting to deliver supplies to a team participating in the search for the mountain climbers on Mount Hkakabo Razi.

On Tuesday, the Htoo Foundation, whose patron Tay Za is one of Burma’s biggest tycoons, said contact with the crew had been made, and that with all three men on board the chopper were still alive.

“Today, contact with the three men, who had gone missing with the B4 helicopter since the 27th of September in the search and rescue operation of the two missing Myanmar mountaineers, had finally been restored,” read a post on the foundation’s Facebook page.

“The great joy for all of us is that, all three are alive,” it continued, though only one of the men had been reunited with the search team as of Tuesday evening.

The announcement was accompanied by several photos of the apparent reunion between Tay Za and Shwe Yin Taw Gyi, who was on board the helicopter and serves as the magnate’s personal assistance.

“He told me that he walked a head of the two pilots as both of them suffered injuries,” a subsequent post read, presumably quoting Tay Za himself, who went on to add that a team was “urgently in search of the two pilots deep in the forest. In the very near future, we will be able to find and rescue them.”

The statements did not include details on the helicopter team’s ordeal, and attempts by The Irrawaddy to contact the Htoo Foundation were unsuccessful on Tuesday night.

Over the weekend, the Htoo Foundation said the search for the two missing Burmese would continue, while acknowledging that it was increasingly unlikely that the men—Aung Myint Myat and Wai Yan Min Thu—would be found alive.

They set out to summit Mount Hkakabo Razi on July 31 and reached the peak on Aug. 31, becoming the first Burmese nationals to scale what is considered to be Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain. The duo sent a transmission on Aug. 31 relaying the feat, which was corroborated by their GPS data, but the climbers have not been heard from since.

This story has been corrected to reflect an edited Facebook post from the Htoo Foundation. The foundation’s original post stated that all three men were alive and had met with Tay Za on Tuesday evening, implying that the entire helicopter crew had been reunited with the search team. The original story also incorrectly stated that the helicopter had been found.