American Joel Babcock 1 of 49 Dead in Lao Airlines Plane Crash

October 16, 2013 Updated: June 24, 2015

Joel Babcock, an American, is one of 49 dead after a Lao Airlines flight crashed in Laos on Wednesday.

All 44 passengers and five crew members perished in the crash.

A passenger manifest faxed by the airline listed 44 people: 16 Lao nationals, seven French, six Australians, five Thais, three Koreans, three Vietnamese and one person each from China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States.

Babcock was mourned by friends who said that he was a good person.

“He is from the US but did mission work in Laos,” said one, an Omaha, Nebrasa resident, via Twitter. “Very young and brave.”

Later, the resident tweeted follow-up thoughts.

“Our small struggles appear so big,” she said. “Until something tragic happens elsewhere in the world…or just down the street. I’m so sorry for the loss of a loved one to many people I know.”

Eli Deichmann, also via Twitter, asked people to keep the Babock family in their prayers.

“They lost their oldest son Joel in a plane crash today,” he said.

Although she is not listed on the passenger manifest, friends said that Joel’s wife, Angelin, also died in the crash.

Details of the crash remained murky. Lao Airlines said in a statement Wednesday that the plane took off from the capital, Vientiane, and “ran into extreme bad weather conditions” as it prepared to land at Pakse Airport. The crash occurred about 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the airport.

The airline said it had yet to determine the cause of the crash of the ATR-72 aircraft, which had been delivered in March.

French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR said in a statement that “the circumstances of the accident are still being determined.” It said that it would assist in the investigation, which will be led by Lao authorities.

A foreign resident of Pakse, near where the crash occurred, told the Bangkok Post that the scene of the crash was chaotic. 

“The Chinese Temple in front of my house has become an emergency centre,” he said. “I saw lifeless bodies laying about and other lifeless bodies being brought in, some connected to IV drips.

“It’s complete chaos out front, as emergency vehicles grapple with usual traffic on this pot-holed, muddy stretch of road. Hundreds of people are loitering about, some curious, others presumably concerned for their loved ones. It’s absolute horror.”

Rescuers in fishing boats pulled bodies from the muddy Mekong River on Thursday as officials in Laos ruled out finding survivors from a plane that crashed in stormy weather, killing 49 people from 10 countries.

Backpacks, two broken propellers and passports were among the debris scattered on the riverbank where the Lao Airlines turboprop plane left deep skid marks in the ground before disappearing into the water Wednesday.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said search teams had recovered the bodies of 15 crash victims by the time their operations ended Thursday because of darkness and the strong current.

The passengers included foreign tourists and expatriates working in Laos.

Tourism has become a major source of income for Laos in the past decade. In 2012, the country received more than 3.3 million foreign tourists who generated total revenue of more than $513 million.

The area where the plane crashed is off the main tourist circuit in Laos but known for its remote Buddhist temples, nature treks and waterfalls.

Cambodian authorities said one of the plane’s pilots was a 56-year-old Cambodian with more than 30 years’ flying experience.


The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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