“On behalf of the Government and the people of Papua New Guinea, I extend our sincere condolences to Mr Tong’s family, friends and colleagues for your loss.
“Comforting thoughts are difficult at a time like this, especially when a young man, early in his flying career, has passed away in tragic circumstances. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all during this very difficult period.
“The search for the aircraft was severely hampered by cloud on the ridges and valleys surrounding the accident site.
“I commend the personnel involved, particularly the air and ground search parties, for their dedication to this very sad search and recovery mission.
“I am aware that North Coast Aviation worked tirelessly with other aircraft operators and rescue teams, and government agencies in very hazardous conditions.
In a statement Maru said that all relevant government agencies continue to provide assistance, and a thorough investigation of the accident will be conducted by the PNG Accident Investigation Commission (AIC).
“PNG has some of the most challenging terrain and unpredictable weather faced by pilots anywhere in the world.
“The health and well-being of our people in rural areas is dependent on the services of the dedicated men and women flying aircraft into remote towns and villages, to take essential supplies and services to these communities,” he observed.
“Our Government and people are very appreciative of Pilots who continue to serve our rural communities by delivering much needed goods and services that can only be delivered by air transport.
“Therefore as a Government we reorganize the essential and important role that airlines and pilots play in our development.
“The Rural Airstrips Agency also provides essential services to these communities through the training of local communities to build and maintain rural airstrips. Without this service many communities would not be able to be reached by air”.
Maru added that the Government is committed to supporting aviation to rural communities and to ensuring flying in PNG is safe and this has been reflected in the Budget for 2018.