Crashed In­done­sia plane found ‘de­stroyed’

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY LEVI CUND­ING

A plane that crashed in eastern In­done­sia was Tues­day found “com­pletely de­stroyed” with the bod­ies of all 54 pas­sen­gers and crew strewn amid the wreck­age in a fire-black­ened jun­gle clear­ing, of­fi­cials said.

Res­cuers fi­nally reached the de­bris of the Tri­g­ana Air plane, which went down Sun­day in Pa­pua province dur­ing a short flight in bad weather, af­ter aban­don­ing search ef­forts a day ear­lier due to moun­tain­ous ter­rain, thick fog and rain.

The black box flight data recorders, which could pro­vide clues about the cause of the crash, were re­trieved. Money — some of it burnt — was also found among the wreck­age of the plane, which had been trans­port­ing 6.5 bil­lion ru­piah (US$470,000) in cash.

“The plane has crashed, it is com­pletely de­stroyed,” Bam­bang Soelistyo, head of the coun­try’s search and res­cue agency, said of the ATR 42-300 plane af­ter teams reached the site in the morn­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing was in pieces and part of the plane is burnt.”

It is just the latest air ac­ci­dent in In­done­sia, which has a poor avi­a­tion safety record and has suf­fered ma­jor dis­as­ters in re­cent months, in­clud­ing the crash of an AirAsia plane in De­cem­ber with the loss of 162 lives.

Photos of the site showed a fire­black­ened clear­ing in thick jun­gle strewn with de­bris. The twin­tur­bo­prop plane was car­ry­ing 54 peo­ple — 49 pas­sen­gers and five crew — and of­fi­cials said all the bod­ies had been found.

The team of about 100 res­cuers, in­clud­ing sol­diers and po­lice, who reached the crash site found some bod­ies were not in­tact while oth­ers were badly burnt. All those on board were be­lieved to be In­done­sians.

Author­i­ties were plan­ning to air­lift the bod­ies from the site by he­li­copter but ef­forts were sus­pended on Tues­day af­ter­noon due to thick fog, Soelistyo told re­porters in Jaya­pura, Pa­pua’s cap­i­tal.

A fresh at­tempt would be made Wed­nes­day.

‘Un­pre­dictable weather’

The money on the plane, which was be­ing car­ried in four bags by postal of­fi­cials, was gov­ern­ment so­cial as­sis­tance funds to be dis­trib­uted to poor fam­i­lies in the re­mote com­mu­nity of Ok­si­bil where the plane had been head­ing.

Soelistyo did not say how much cash had been found, but he told re­porters: “I have in­structed the team there to se­cure all the items, in­clud­ing the money, to be handed over to the author­i­ties as ev­i­dence.”

The plane had set off from Jaya­pura on what was sup­posed to be a 45-minute flight to Ok­si­bil.

But it lost con­tact with air traf­fic con­trol about 10 min­utes be­fore reach­ing its des­ti­na­tion, soon af­ter the crew re­quested per­mis­sion to start de­scend­ing in heavy cloud and rain to land.

Capt. Beni Su­maryanto, Tri­g­ana Air’s ser­vice di­rec­tor of oper­a­tions, said “un­pre­dictable weather and moun­tain­ous ter­rain” had likely caused the ac­ci­dent, adding that the plane was in good con­di­tion and the pi­lot ex­pe­ri­enced.

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

Last week 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 also caused by bad weather.

Tri­g­ana Air, a small do­mes­tic In­done­sian air­line, has ex­pe­ri­enced a string of se­ri­ous in­ci­dents and is banned from fly­ing in Euro­pean Union airspace.

Last year’s AirAsia crash was one of two ma­jor air ac­ci­dents that In­done­sia has suf­fered in the past year alone.

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

The avi­a­tion sec­tor in In­done­sia is ex­pand­ing fast but air­lines are strug­gling to find enough well- trained per­son­nel to keep up with the rapid growth in the ar­chi­pel­ago of more than 17,000 is­lands.

AP

Plane wreck­age is strewn across dense ter­rain in Pe­gu­nun­gan Bin­tang, Pa­pua province, In­done­sia, Tues­day, Aug. 18.

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