All 54 bodies and black box found at Indonesian plane crash site

Heronimus Guru (left) and Director of Operational and Training Ivan Ahmad Rizki show a picture of the suspected crash site of a Trigana Air ATR 42 plane shortly after a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia on Aug 17, 2015.
Heronimus Guru (left) and Director of Operational and Training Ivan Ahmad Rizki show a picture of the suspected crash site of a Trigana Air ATR 42 plane shortly after a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia on Aug 17, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

JAYAPURA, Indonesia (REUTERS, AFP) -  Search and rescue workers have found all 54 bodies and the black box of a Trigana Air passenger aircraft that crashed in the remote mountainous interior of Indonesia's eastern most province, a transportation ministry official said on Tuesday.

“At 1.40 local time, the Trigana Air black box was found,” Transportation Ministry Julius Arivada Barata told Reuters by text message.

The Trigana Air plane was carrying 49 passengers, among them five children, and five crew.

There was no news on the fate of 6.5 billion rupiah (S$650,000) that was being transported by the plane in cash, intended for distribution to poor families as social assistance funds.

The plane lost contact on Sunday as it flew in bad weather from Jayapura, the capital of Papua, to Oksibil, a remote settlement in the mountains to the south.

Thick fog and rain had hampered attempts by more than 250 rescuers and 11 aircraft to reach the wreckage on Monday, and they had been forced to turn back.

- Poor aviation safety record -

The disaster is 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.

The Trigana plane was carrying 49 passengers and five crew on the journey from Papua’s capital Jayapura to Oksibil, a remote settlement in the mountains to the south.

The plane lost contact with air traffic control about 10 minutes before reaching its destination, soon after the crew requested permission to start descending in heavy cloud and rain to land.

Officials suspect bad weather may have caused the crash.

Relatives of passengers waiting at Jayapura airport have become increasingly frustrated at the lack of hard news since the weekend, with some shouting “we want confirmation!” and throwing a table at a crisis centre in angry scenes on Monday.

Small aircraft are commonly used for transport in remote and mountainous Papua and bad weather has caused several accidents in recent years.

Last week a Cessna propeller plane crashed in Papua’s Yahukimo district, killing one person and seriously injuring the five others on board. Officials suspect that crash was also 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.

Last year’s AirAsia crash was one of two major air accidents that Indonesia has suffered in the past year alone.

In June, an Indonesian military plane crashed into a residential neighbourhood in the city of Medan, exploding in a fireball and killing 142 people.

The aviation sector in Indonesia is expanding fast but airlines are struggling to find enough well-trained personnel to keep up with the rapid growth in the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.