Debris spotted in Indonesia possible plane crash
A search plane in Indonesia has spotted burning debris that is almost certain to belong to a passenger aircraft that earlier went missing in the eastern Indonesian province of Papua.
Officials, however, seemed to refrain from providing a final confirmation, as it would need search teams to access the debris, which lies on rugged terrain on the mountains of Papua.
“Early this morning, a plane swept the route and sighted debris in an area near [the district of] Oksibil, but we want to double-check now,” Indonesian Transport Ministry spokesman J. A. Barata told AFP on Monday.
“Smoke was still billowing from the wreckage when it was spotted by a plane search,” said Soelistyo, a leading official with the search and rescue operation team, adding that poor weather and rugged terrain were hindering efforts to reach the debris.
Indonesian officials on Sunday cited local villagers as saying that they had seen the ill-fated ATR 42-300 turboprop plane crash into a mountain. Authorities refrained from confirming a crash, however, as they had to suspend search operations until today in the morning.
The plane, which was carrying 49 passengers, including five children, and five crew members, disappeared as it headed to Oksibil from Papua’s capital, Jayapura.
The aircraft, operated by Indonesian carrier Trigana Air Service, reportedly lost contact with the airport just ten minutes before its scheduled landing.
If the debris does indeed belong to the missing plane, it would be unlikely to expect any survivors, reports say. At the time of the possible crash, the area was reportedly experiencing bad weather.
Trigana Air Service, which began operations in 1991, has been banned from operating in European Union airspace since 2007 because of safety or regulatory concerns.
If confirmed, the Sunday incident would be Indonesia’s third aviation disaster in less than eight months.
Last week, a Cessna propeller plane operated by the Indonesian company Komala Air went down in Papua’s Yahukimo district, leaving one person dead and five others critically injured. The crash was said to have been caused by bad weather.
An Indonesian military transport plane crashed into a residential area in the city of Medan in June, killing at least 143 people.
Last December, an AirAsia jet traveling from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore plummeted into the Java Sea during bad weather, claiming the lives of all 162 people on board.