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Indonesian plane 'totally destroyed' in mountain crash

Published 18/08/2015

Relatives of passengers on the Trigana Air Service flight wait for information at Sentani airport in Jayapura (AP)
Relatives of passengers on the Trigana Air Service flight wait for information at Sentani airport in Jayapura (AP)

An Indonesian passenger plane that went missing two days ago was destroyed when it crashed into a mountain, killing all 54 people on board.

More than 70 rescuers finally reached the crash site today after being hindered by rugged, forested terrain and bad weather.

The flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, the plane's "black boxes", were found in good condition, National Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said. The data they contain could help explain what caused the crash.

He said all 54 bodies had been recovered and will be taken to Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, so they can be identified. He said the plane had been ''totally destroyed".

The Trigana Air Service plane was flying from Jayapura to the city of Oksibil with 49 passengers and five crew members on a scheduled 42-minute flight when it lost contact on Sunday.

Mr Soelistyo said the wreckage was at an altitude of about 8,500ft. Much of Papua is covered with impenetrable jungles and mountains, and some planes that have crashed in the past have never been found.

The airline's crisis centre official in Jayapura's Sentani airport, Budiono, said all the passengers were Indonesians, and included three local government officials and two members of the local parliament who were to attend a ceremony on Monday in Oksibil marking the 70th anniversary of Indonesia's independence from Dutch colonial rule.

Oksibil, about 175 miles south of Jayapura, was experiencing heavy rain, strong winds and fog when the plane lost contact with the airport minutes before it was scheduled to land.

The victims' relatives, who had been waiting at the airport, broke down in tears when they heard the news. Many of them accused the airline of taking too long to give them information.

"They are unprofessional... they play with our feelings of grieving," said Cory Gasper, whose brother Jhon was on the plane.

The airline released a public apology just after a search plane spotted the smouldering wreckage of the ATR42-300 twin turboprop on Monday.

It is unclear what caused the caused the crash, and Indonesia's transportation safety commission has opened an investigation.

The passengers included four postal workers escorting four bags of cash totalling £300,000 in government aid for poor families to help offset a spike in fuel prices, Franciscus Haryono, the head of the post office in Jayapura said.

Trigana Air Service, which began operations in 1991, had 22 aircraft as of December 2013 and flies to 21 destinations in Indonesia. The carrier has had 19 serious incidents since 1992, resulting in the loss of eight aircraft and major damage to 11 others, according to the Aviation Safety Network's online database.

The airline remains banned from flying to Europe along with other six Indonesian airlines.

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