JAYAPURA (AFP) - The first bodies of 54 people killed when a plane went down in eastern Indonesia were Wednesday carried from the remote crash site after bad weather hampered efforts to airlift them.
Authorities also revealed rescuers were still looking for one of the Trigana Air plane’s two “black boxes", the flight data recorder, after initially saying that both had been found.
The remains of 17 people who died when the plane crashed during a short flight in bad weather Sunday were taken by hundreds of locals and rescuers through jungle and over mountains in Papua province.
The bodies arrived at the settlement of Oksibil, the intended destination of the ATR 42-300 plane, after a gruelling, hours-long journey.
Four bodies had already been flown on to Papua’s capital Jayapura while the other 13 were still in the local hospital, transport ministry spokesman J. A. Barata told AFP.
The recovery effort was halted at nightfall and will resume Thursday.
Authorities had initially hoped to use helicopters to airlift the bodies from the site, but bad weather made it too dangerous to fly in the area Wednesday.
“The current conditions make it impossible for us to use helicopters, so we have to do it via land,” said local military spokesman Pudji Teguh Rahardjo.
Officials initially believed that both black boxes – the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder – had been found in the wreckage.
But transport ministry spokesman J. A. Barata said Wednesday the flight data recorder, which takes readings from many different parts of the aircraft, had not yet been recovered.
The tragedy was just the latest air accident in Indonesia, which has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered major disasters in recent months, including the crash of an AirAsia plane in December with the loss of 162 lives.
It took rescuers two days to reach the site, about 15km from Oksibil, after initial efforts were hindered by the rough terrain and bad weather.
They found the twin-turboprop aircraft in pieces scattered across a fire-blackened clearing, and the bodies of the 49 passengers and five crew who had been aboard.
They also recovered some of the 6.5 billion rupiah (S$650,000) in government social assistance funds that was being transported for distribution to poor families. Some of the money was badly burnt.
A team of three investigators from France’s BEA agency, which probes air accidents, and four technical advisers from ATR, a European plane maker based in France, is heading to Indonesia to look into the accident.
The plane had set off from Jayapura on what was supposed to be a 45-minute flight to Oksibil, but lost contact 10 minutes before landing as it sought to descend in heavy cloud and rain.
The airline has said the accident was likely caused by bad weather.
Trigana Air, a small domestic Indonesian airline, has experienced a string of serious incidents and is banned from flying in European Union airspace.