First bodies recovered from Papua crash site

Indonesian security forces and rescue teams carrying coffins containing the remains of some of the passengers recovered from the crash site of the Trigana Air plane yesterday at Sentani Airport, near Jayapura, Papua province.
Indonesian security forces and rescue teams carrying coffins containing the remains of some of the passengers recovered from the crash site of the Trigana Air plane yesterday at Sentani Airport, near Jayapura, Papua province.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAYAPURA (Indonesia) • The first bodies of 54 people killed when a plane went down in eastern Indonesia were carried from the remote crash site after bad weather hampered efforts to airlift them.

The remains of at least 17 people who died when the Trigana Air plane crashed during a short flight in bad weather on Sunday were taken by hundreds of locals and rescuers through jungle and over mountains in Papua province.

The bodies arrived at 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 Mr J. A. Barata said. The recovery effort was halted at nightfall and resumes today.

The authorities had initially hoped to use helicopters to airlift the bodies, but bad weather made it dangerous to fly in the area. Rescuers took two days to reach the site, about 15km from Oksibil.

Rescuers also recovered the plane's black box flight data recorders, and some of the 6.5 billion rupiah (S$663,000) in government social assistance funds that was being transported for distribution to poor families.

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.

Small aircraft are commonly used for transport in Papua, one of the most remote corners of the sprawling Indonesian archipelago. Trigana Air, a small domestic Indonesian airline, has experienced a string of serious incidents and is banned from flying in European Union airspace.

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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'First bodies recovered from Papua crash site'. Print Edition | Subscribe