Jayapura: In the latest fatal accident to hit the country's aviation sector, the wreckage of a passenger plane which went missing with 54 people aboard in the rugged terrains of eastern Indonesia was been found by villagers on Sunday.
The plane operated by Indonesian carrier Trigana Air lost contact with air traffic control just before 3:00 pm (11:30 IST) after taking off from Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, the search and rescue agency said. The plane was carrying 44 adult passengers, five children and five crew members.
But the plane disappeared about 10 minutes before reaching its destination Oksibil, a remote settlement in the mountains south of Jayapura, shortly after it asked permission to start descending to land. Officials said initially that villagers in the Okbape district of Papua reported seeing a plane crash.
The transport ministry later said local residents had found the wreckage. “According to residents, the flight had crashed into a mountain,” said the transport ministry’s director-general of air transportation, Suprasetyo. He added that officials were still verifying the information from local residents.
There was no information about whether anyone may have survived. Transport Ministry spokesman JA Barata said that search and rescue teams, police and the military would head to the site as soon as possible. After the plane failed to land, Trigana Air sent another flight over the area to hunt for it but the aircraft failed to spot anything due to bad weather.
Captain Beni Sumaryanto, Trigana Air’s service director of operations, said that Oksibil was a mountainous area where the weather is extremely unpredictable. It can suddenly turn foggy, dark and windy without warning. “We strongly suspect it’s a weather issue. It is not overcapacity, as the plane could take 50 passengers.”
On the blacklist
Trigana Air is a small airline that operates domestic services to around 40 destinations in Indonesia. It has suffered 14 serious incidents since it began operations, according to the Aviation Safety Network. The airline is also on a blacklist of carriers banned from European Union airspace.