Tue, Aug 18, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Landscape hinders effort to reach site of Indonesia crash

Reuters, JAKARTA

Treacherous terrain in Indonesia’s Papua Province yesterday hampered rescuers’ efforts to reach a passenger airplane that crashed with 54 people on board, the latest in a string of aviation disasters in the sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago.

Rescuers have yet to detect the aircraft’s black boxes and news of survivors depends on a ground team now trekking slowly toward the mountainous area, the rescue official overseeing the search said.

“If it collided into a mountain, there has never been a case of survivors. But who knows, let’s wait,” Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency operations director Major General Heronimus Guru said.

Rescue teams arriving at the site would be required to build a helipad to fly in help, Guru told a news conference in the Indonesian capital, adding that 266 people were involved in the operation, while 11 aircraft scoured the thickly forested area.

With the approach of nightfall, search operations were scheduled to resume at 6:30am today, depending on the weather.

Guru displayed grainy photographs of what is believed to be the site of Sunday’s crash of the Trigana Air Service ATR 42-300 airplane in the heavily forested Bintang Mountains.

Officials at Trigana Air, placed on the EU’s list of banned carriers since 2007 over safety or regulatory concerns, were not immediately available to respond to questions from reporters.

There were 44 adult passengers, five children and infants and five crew on Trigana Air Flight IL267, a short trip from Sentani Airport in Jayapura, capital of Papua, south to Oksibil.

All aboard were Indonesian nationals, officials have said.

Earlier reports said the aircraft was carrying about US$470,000 in cash destined for remote villages, as part of an official assistance program.

Poor infrastructure in Indonesia’s easternmost province means that assistance money is often flown in by air, postal service spokesman Abu Sofjan said.

There was no suggestion the large sum of money carried on the airplane was linked to the crash.

Guru told reporters the cash was not a priority and confirmation of the cause of the crash would have to await an official investigation by a national transportation safety panel.

“I feel that it collided into a mountain, but let’s wait for the KNKT,” he said, referring to the panel by the acronym of its official name, the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee.

Erratic weather could have played a role in the crash, another official said.

“It’s the weather there, it changes all the time. In the morning it can be clear and hot, and then suddenly it rains,” said Sito, a communications operator with the rescue agency in Jayapura.

A Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma helicopter crashed in the same area last year, said Sito, who goes by one name, like many Indonesians.

The crashed ATR 42-300 made its first flight 27 years ago, Web site Aviation Safety Network said. Trigana Air has a fleet of 14 aircraft, aged 26.6 years on average, the airfleets.com database showed.

This story has been viewed 1813 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top