Source AP ©

Thailand’s authorities identify near 30 victims of plane crash

Thailand officials reports that the bodies of more than 30 victims of the plane crash on island of Phuket remain unidentified because they were so badly burned.

The head of the plane's parent company, meanwhile, defended the flight's pilot and urged observers not to jump to conclusions about what caused the One-Two-Go flight to crash Sunday.

Thai officials have pointed to wind shear - sudden changes in wind direction or intensity - as a possible cause, and said the flight's pilot ignored a warning of such conditions during his descent.

"There is a lot of speculation out there (concerning the crash). That is not good," Orient-Thai Airlines President Kajit Habnanonda said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We need to wait for the experts."

The budget flight was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew from Bangkok to Phuket when it skidded off a runway while landing in driving wind and rain, catching fire and killing 89 people.

The dead came from at least 10 countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Sweden and Thailand. Official tallies confirm that Thailand had the most victims - 36 - followed by Iran with 18.

Nine French, eight British, six Israelis, five Americans and four Irish nationals were also among the dead, according to embassy reports and documents obtained by The Associated Press from Thai immigration police.

Lt. Gen. Amporn Charuchinda, police commissioner of forensics, said 33 of the dead had yet to be identified. "They were burned beyond recognition," he said.

Most of the Thai bodies and that of the Indonesian pilot have been retrieved by relatives and some have been flown by commercial flights to Bangkok, according to Maj. Gen. Santhan Chayanon, deputy police commander of the region that includes Phuket.

Pickup trucks could be seen transporting caskets to waiting flights.

In a cavernous refrigerated cargo hold where the remaining dead were being stored, the mood is somber. Photos of charred bodies - including those of children - hang on the wall for identification. Burned luggage was stacked in one corner and the smell of smoke still lingered in the air.

Rama Yade, the French minister of state responsible for foreign affairs and human rights, visited the makeshift morgue at the end of one of the runaways where she laid flowers. She then met relatives of the dead at a nearby hotel to brief them on efforts to identify at least five French victims.