Crashed Indonesian plane ‘destroyed,’ with no survivors

‘EVERYTHING IN PIECES’::Teams reached the crash site yesterday morning. The crash killed 54 people. A large amount of cash it was carrying was found

AFP, JAYAPURA, Indonesia

Wed, Aug 19, 2015 - Page 1

A plane that crashed in eastern Indonesia was yesterday 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 on 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.”

Photographs of the site showed a fire-blackened clearing in thick jungle strewn with debris. The twin-turboprop 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 yesterday afternoon due to thick fog, Soelistyo told reporters in Jayapura, Papua’s capital.

A fresh attempt was to be made today.

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 said: “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.

However, 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.

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