Plane car­ry­ing 54 crashes in Pa­pua

Plane dis­cov­ered by vil­lagers in eastern In­done­sia: of­fi­cial

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEVI CUND­ING

The wreck­age of a pas­sen­ger plane that went miss­ing with 54 peo­ple aboard in rugged eastern In­done­sia Sun­day has been found by vil­lagers, an of­fi­cial said, in the latest fa­tal ac­ci­dent to hit the coun­try’s avi­a­tion sec­tor.

The plane op­er­ated by In­done­sian car­rier Tri­g­ana Air lost con­tact with air traf­fic con­trol just be­fore 3:00 p.m. (0600 GMT) af­ter tak­ing off from Jaya­pura, the cap­i­tal of Pa­pua province, the search and res­cue agency said.

The ATR 42-300 twin-tur­bo­prop plane was car­ry­ing 44 adult pas­sen­gers, five chil­dren and five crew on the flight, which was sched­uled to take about 45 min­utes, it said.

But the plane dis­ap­peared about 10 min­utes be­fore reach­ing its des­ti­na­tion Ok­si­bil, a re­mote set­tle­ment in the moun­tains south of Jaya­pura, shortly af­ter it asked per­mis­sion to start de­scend­ing to land.

Of­fi­cials said ini­tially that vil­lagers in the Ok­bape dis­trict of Pa­pua re­ported see­ing a plane crash. The trans­port min­istry later said lo­cal res­i­dents had found the wreck­age.

“The plane has been found (by vil­lagers). Ac­cord­ing to res­i­dents, the flight had crashed into a moun­tain,” said the trans­port min­istry’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral of air trans­porta­tion, Suprase­tyo, who goes by one name.

Of­fi­cials were still ver­i­fy­ing the in­for­ma­tion from lo­cal res­i­dents, he said. There was no in­for­ma­tion about whether any­one may have sur­vived.

Search and res­cue teams, po­lice and the mil­i­tary would head to the site as soon as pos­si­ble Mon­day, said trans­port min­istry spokesman J. A. Barata.

‘Dark and cloudy’

Af­ter the plane failed to land, Tri­g­ana Air sent another flight over the area to hunt for it but the air­craft failed to spot any­thing due to bad weather.

Capt. Beni Su­maryanto, Tri­g­ana Air’s ser­vice di­rec­tor of oper­a­tions, told AFP that Ok­si­bil was “a moun­tain­ous area where the weather is very un­pre­dictable. It can sud­denly turn foggy, dark and windy with­out warn­ing.

“We strongly sus­pect it’s a weather is­sue. It is not over­ca­pac­ity, as the plane could take 50 pas­sen­gers.”

Barata said the weather in the area had been “very dark and cloudy.”

Tri­g­ana Air is a small air­line es­tab­lished in 1991 that op­er­ates do­mes­tic ser­vices to around 40 des­ti­na­tions in In­done­sia.

It has suf­fered 14 se­ri­ous inci- dents since it be­gan oper­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Avi­a­tion Safety Net­work, which mon­i­tors air ac­ci­dents.

The air­line is on a blacklist of car­ri­ers banned from Euro­pean Union airspace.

Small air­craft are com­monly used for trans­port in re­mote and moun­tain­ous Pa­pua and bad weather has caused sev­eral ac­ci­dents in re­cent years.

On Wed­nes­day a Cessna pro­pel­ler plane crashed in Pa­pua’s Yahukimo dis­trict, killing one per­son and se­ri­ously in­jur­ing the five oth­ers on board. Of­fi­cials sus­pect that crash was caused by bad weather.

In­done­sia has a patchy avi­a­tion safety record. In De­cem­ber an AirAsia plane fly­ing from the In­done­sian city of Surabaya to Sin­ga­pore crashed in the Java Sea dur­ing stormy weather, killing all 162 peo­ple on board.

In June an In­done­sian mil­i­tary plane crashed into a residential neigh­bour­hood in the city of Medan, ex­plod­ing in a fire­ball and killing 142 peo­ple.

The avi­a­tion sec­tor in In­done­sia is ex­pand­ing fast as the econ­omy booms but air­lines are strug­gling to find enough well-trained per­son­nel to keep up with the rapid growth.

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