Woman in Malaysia copter crash said to be staff of charter firm

KUALA LUMPUR - Mystery surrounds the identity of a woman who was on a helicopter that crashed last Saturday, killing her and five others on board, including one of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's most trusted aides.

Police said yesterday they had yet to positively identify the remains of the female passenger.

But Malaysian media reports said she was Ms Aidana Baizieva, identified in the manifest released by the Transport Ministry as an operations assistant for Cempaka Aviation, the private company that operated the helicopter, which crashed in Semenyih, just outside Kuala Lumpur.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said his ministry was verifying information provided by the charter company.

"We were told that the woman on board was an operations assistant and we will verify it," he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

When contacted, the company said the matter was under investigation and declined comment.

Along with Ms Baizieva, the helicopter was carrying Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis, an Umno lawmaker and political strategist for Datuk Seri Najib; Datuk Azlin Alias, the Prime Minister's principal private secretary; businessman Robert Tan Huat Seang; American pilot Clifford Fournier; and bodyguard Mohd Razkan Seran when it crashed just minutes away from its destination.

Selangor police chief Abdul Samah Mat said yesterday that they could not verify the woman's identity until a DNA test was conducted.

"A woman showed up at HKL (Hospital Kuala Lumpur) yesterday to give a DNA sample, but she claimed to be the victim's stepsister," he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

"We need a closer family member to come forward so that we can match the DNA."

The Star reported that the woman, who refused to speak to reporters, arrived at the hospital with a Kyrgyzstan Embassy official. Earlier, an embassy spokesman confirmed that Ms Baizieva was a Kyrgyzstani national and had been working in Malaysia for a while.

"Records showed that she had been in Malaysia for at least a year," the spokesman told the paper, declining to reveal more.

The questions surrounding the woman's identity followed earlier reports that Ms Baizieva was a co-pilot of the helicopter after an old photo showing Captain Fournier with air charter firm executive Dzuriasikim Dzulkefli in a helicopter made the rounds online. After Ms Dzuriasikim came forward to say she was not Ms Baizieva, another unverified photo circulated on social media websites yesterday claiming to show the Kyrgyzstani woman.

The preliminary report on the crash is expected to take up to a month to complete, reports said. Police have ruled out sabotage.