Israeli Expert to Join Investigation Into Plane Crash

The Transportation Ministry will send its top airline accident investigator to Thailand to participate in the investigation of Sunday's plane crash in Phuket, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz announced yesterday.

The crash claimed the lives of at least seven Israelis.

Yitzhak Raz will travel to Phuket at the invitation of Thai air transportation authorities. Thailand extended Israel a formal invitation to participate in the investigation of the deadly crash yesterday.

A total of 89 people died in the crash when the aircraft slid off the runway and exploded after landing in heavy rain and high winds. Budget airline One-Two-Go's Flight OG269 from Bangkok split in two before coming to rest on an embankment.

Thai police have identified 36 dead foreigners so far, 7 of whom were Israelis. Another Israeli is still missing. Two others survived the crash and have returned to Israel.

"Israel's participation in the probe allows us to learn more about the incident, and we will have a closer look at how the investigation is progressing," the ministry's foreign relations officer Avner Ovadia told Haaretz. "Additionally, it will improve the probe's quality and credibility."

Experts from Australia and the U.K. are contributing to the investigation. The crash claimed the lives of at least eight Britons - another eight are still missing - and one Australian man.

The Convention on International Civil Aviation affords any state whose citizens were killed in a plane crash the right to participate in the investigation of the crash. But the convention grants only observer status, and the privilege of any information investigators uncover.