KUCHING: Despite a three-hour gap, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) said there were no delays in issuing the search and rescue alert to find the missing AS350 helicopter.
DCA director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (pic) said the department had to go through a set of procedures before issuing such an alert.
The helicopter, which carried Datuk Noriah Kasnon and five others, lost contact with the control tower at 4.28pm, Thursday.
Azharuddin said the search and rescue alert was issued at 7.26pm, after exhausting all efforts to contact the helicopter.
“Around 4.15pm, they had contacted the control tower. Before they reached Simunjan, the tower tried to establish contact at 4.28pm but no response.
“Then we made several attempts to contact the aircraft at 4.29pm and 4.36pm but still no response,” he told a press conference at DCA office here, Friday.
Azharuddin said four helicopters flying nearby the AS350 also attempted to establish contact, but were unable to get any response.
Subsequently, he said, DCA alerted Hornbill Skyways, which chartered the helicopter.
“At 4.50pm, we put up the alert phase, but the feedback has been negative. Then we declared the search and rescue alert at 7.26pm.
“There are no delays because in between, we contacted various parties including Hornbill Skyways. We are doing our part to contact the parties concerned,” he said.
Azharuddin urged the public not to speculate how the incident occurred as the matter is still being investigated.
He added that the families of all those on board have already been informed.
“We have a team that handles the family matters but please respect their privacy.
“Please respect their hardship in these times,” he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak revealed that debris believed to be from the missing AS350 helicopter was found at 9.50am.
The debris comprised a rotor blade, a floatation device, part of a helicopter wall, a door and a seat.
Najib said the debris was found near Batang Lupar.
The helicopter carrying six people, including the Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister, her husband Asmuni Abdullah and four others, had left Betong at 4.12pm on Thursday and was headed to Kuching.
The others reported to be in the helicopter were ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Sundaran Annamalai; Kuala Kangsar MP and Malaysian Palm Oil Board chairman Datuk Wan Mohammad Khair-il Anuar Wan Ahmad; Noriah’s bodyguard Ahmad Sobri; and Capt Rudolf Rex Ragas.