By Ezra Toara

All passengers and crew members of the small plane that crashed into the bushes upon take-off at the Solar Airport on Vanua Lava yesterday are safe.

This was confirmed by the Minister of Finance, John Salong, who was on the flight with five other officials and two crew members.

Minister Salong and the officials went there to officiate a program for the Vanuatu Financial Service Commission (VFSC).

He said they were all safe with no injuries, but the plant suffered significant damage.

While there are no clear clarifications on the cause of the crash, a local on Sola said planes usually face difficulty to take-off at the airport during bad weather because of mud.

According to the Finance Minister, there was no rain upon their arrival on the island. However, it rained heavily later during the program. When they returned to the airport around 2:25pm, the pilot checked and determined that it should be okay to take off, so they boarded the plane. However, a few minutes after take-off, it ran into the bushes.

He said that during take-off, the pilot attempted to accelerate, but the plane could not ascend. The pilot tried to bring the plane down and slow it down, but the runway was too slippery. As a result, the plane went into the bushes and suffered severe damage.

Minister Salong thanked God no one was hurt during the crash.

He said they will wait for a ship to travel to Santo where they can board a plane to return to Vila.

An eyewitness on the ground stressed that Sola Airport is risky for take-offs during rainy weather due to the slippery runway. He noted that planes struggle to gain altitude, and in this case, it ran into the bushes as they could not make it up to the sky. Fortunately, Burao roots stopped the plane from going further into the thick bushes and swamp.

The police have cordoned off the area around the plane and will wait until the engineers responsible for overseeing the plane arrive to determine the actual problem.

Acting Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu (CAAV), Manfred Veremaito, said arrangements have been made for officers to travel to Sola today to look into the crash.

Veremaito urged people not to enter the crash scene or touch anything from the plane until officers arrived today.