Thu, Dec 02, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Passenger plane skids off runway, killing at least 32

AP , SOLO, INDONESIA

Investigators picked through the wreckage of an Indonesian passenger plane that crashed in stormy weather, killing at least 32 people in the country's worst air accident in six years.

Forty others were injured when the budget carrier Lion Air plane smashed through a fence at the end of the runway and ended up in a graveyard outside Adi Sumarmo airport in Solo on Tuesday, data collected from three hospitals in the town showed.

However, Lion Air and a local airport official said yesterday that 26 people were killed in the accident. The cause of the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

The aircraft was carrying 141 passengers and five crew members, and officials said all have been accounted for.

The body of the pilot of the MD-82 was recovered early yesterday, airline spokesman Hasyim Arsal said. No other bodies were found at the scene, said Rudi Patrianto, a local airport official.

State airline safety investigators were examining the plane and collecting pieces of the fuselage. The aircraft suffered major damage to its nose and rear.

Several people being treated for injuries in hospital said they had unfastened their seatbelts when they felt the plane touch down. Arsal said this contributed to the high death toll.

"Everyone panicked and was shouting hysterically," said survivor Dedi, who was being treated in hospital yesterday with a broken leg. "People thought the plane was going to explode." Dedi goes by a single name.

The airline, meanwhile, blamed bad weather for the accident.

Heavy rain and high winds were lashing the runway when the plane landed, Arsal said.

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