Cambodian plane crash's South Korean victims to be sent home

To bodies of 13 South Korean tourists who were killed in Cambodian plane crash were to be flown home Friday, officials said.

The South Koreans were among 22 people who died when the Russian-made An-24 plane crashed Monday in mountainous jungle in southern Cambodia. The others were three Czech tourists, five Cambodian airline employees and an Uzbek crew chief.

A plane carrying the bodies of the Koreans, including 2-year-old and 9-month-old boys, was to leave Cambodia at about 11 p.m. (1600 GMT), said a South Korean Embassy official who asked not to be named because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

The bodies were to be accompanied by 18 relatives who flew to Phnom Penh after hearing of the crash, said Ly Thuch, a senior official at Cambodia's National Committee for Disaster Management.

Nhim Vanda, the committee's vice chairman, said relatives of the Czech victims would take home the ashes of their loved ones, who were cremated at a Buddhist pagoda in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

The body of Nikolay Pavlenko, the plane's crew chief from Uzbekistan, was being stored in a morgue awaiting his relatives.

Rescue teams retrieved all of the bodies from the crash site in Kampot province late Wednesday.

The aircraft, owned by the small Cambodian airline PMT Air, crashed during a storm not long before it was to land in Sihanoukville on the south coast. It had been flying from Siem Reap province, home of the famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Tourism Minister Thong Kohn earlier said the crash was caused by bad weather.

But South Korean news reports, citing the country's diplomats in Cambodia, suggested Thursday that pilot error may have been responsible.

PMT Air began flying in January between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville - a route launched by the government to spur tourism.

South Korean aviation safety officials said they plan to inspect aircraft from seven foreign airlines including PMT Air in the coming days.