Pilot dead as Thai jet skids off runway

A pilot has been killed and seven people seriously wounded when a Bangkok Airways jet skidded and hit an old control tower as it landed on the Thai resort island of Ko Samui.

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Thailand’s public health ministry said 42 people were injured in the crash on Tuesday.

Among the injured, Bangkok Airways’ president said four passengers – one Italian, two British and one Swiss – had been badly injured.

“The flight landed on the south runway and skidded off on the left side before it hit an abandoned air control tower. The aircraft was damaged,” Puttipong Prasattong Osot told reporters.

“The captain was killed and the co-pilot was evacuated from the aircraft and is now hospitalised,” he said.

Another six passengers had also been taken to hospital, with broken legs among the injuries, but everyone on board had been safely evacuated, he said.

“There are four passengers seriously wounded, one Italian, two British, one Swiss,” he added.

‘Experienced’ pilot

Puttipong named the pilot as Captain Chatchai Pansuwan and said he had worked with Bangkok Airways for 19 years and had flown that model of aircraft for the past 14 years.

Aviation officials were en route to Samui airport to investigate the cause of the incident, he said.

He said 68 passengers were aboard the 70-seater ATR-72 flying from the southwestern tourist town Krabi, on the Andaman coast, to Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.

Sakchai Jorpalit, district chief of the Thai tourist island, said the injured from Flight PG266 had been taken to three separate island hospitals.

Bangkok Airways, which also owns Samui airport, said it had temporarily shut the facility following the incident at 2.15pm (1715 AEST).

Thai television showed footage of the crash as the airplane ploughed into the old control tower, now being used to house fire trucks, the airline said.

Investigation under way

Police Colonel Saharat Saksilchai said it had been raining at the time of the crash.

The airline said passengers on board the plane were from Israel, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Britain.

Bangkok Airways said the company had owned the ATR-72 aircraft since July 2001 and it was insured for $US250 million ($A296.98 million).

French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, which built the plane, said in a statement: “ATR has offered full technical assistance to the investigation board.

“Upon request of local and French authorities, an ATR team is going to the accident side for assisting the Thailand investigation authorities.

“The investigation remains the entire responsibility of the relevant board and it would be inappropriate for ATR to enter into any form of speculation.”