Rescue teams race to Indonesian plane crash site

JAYAPURA: Over 50 rescue personnel have been deployed in the Bintang Mountains region in a remote area of Indonesia’s Papuan provinces, where an aerial search team claims to have spotted debris of the missing Trigana Air flight which crashed with 54 crew and passengers as well as currency worth nearly $500,000.


The Indonesian Transport ministry claims villagers in the remote area have also confirmed finding the wreckage.

The Trigana Air crash is the latest air accident in Indonesia, which has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered major incidents recently, including the crash of an AirAsia plane in December with the loss of 162 lives, AFP reported.

The ill-fated plane an ATR 42-300 operated by Indonesian carrier Trigana Air lost contact with air traffic control on Sunday afternoon after seeking permission to start its descent during bad weather on a short flight from Jayapura, the capital of Papua province to Oksibil a remote settlement in the mountains.

Onboard the ATR were 49 passengers and five crew members along with 6.5 billion rupiah ($470,000) in cash, which were government funds being transported by postal officials for distribution to poor families, according to the head of the Jayapura post office.

On Monday a search plane spotted debris engulfed in smoke near Oksibil and another aircraft was being sent to check. Villagers had already reported seeing the plane crash into a mountain on Sunday and spotted wreckage.

A team of rescuers, including troops and police, were heading to the area on foot but will have to battle through dense forest to reach the remote site, which is at an altitude of about 8,500 feet (2,600 metres), according to officials.

“The area is steep and is covered by dense forests. There is no road, no access at all,” said Papua military spokesman Teguh Pudji Rahardjo.

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 caused by bad weather.

Trigana Air, a small domestic 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.

The second incident happened in June when 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.