Rescuers would now try to carry the bodies out of the crash site on foot
(JAYAPURA, Indonesia) — Heavy fog and bad weather hampered rescuers Wednesday trying to evacuate bodies in eastern Indonesia where a passenger plane crashed into a mountain over the weekend, killing all 54 people on board, officials said.
The plane slammed into a mountain on Sunday but it took rescuers almost two days to reach the wreckage because of the rugged, forested terrain and bad weather.
Henry Bambang Soelistyo, the National Search and Rescue Agency chief, said bad weather was still hampering the operation and that rescuers would now try to carry the bodies out.
“Heavy rains and poor visibility were hampering our rescue efforts and evacuation process will be done by foot,” said Soelistyo, adding the bodies would be taken to Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, so they can be identified.
The flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — the plane’s “black boxes” — were found in good condition, Soelistyo said. The data they contain could help explain what caused the Trigana Air Service plane to crash.
The ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane was flying from Jayapura to the city of Oksibil with 49 passengers and five crew members on a scheduled 42-minute flight on Sunday when it lost contact with air traffic control.
The airline’s crisis center official in Jayapura’s Sentani airport, Budiono, said all the passengers were Indonesians. Like many Indonesians, Budiono goes by one name.
Oksibil, about 280 kilometers (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 passengers included four postal workers escorting four bags of cash totaling $468,750 in government aid for poor families to help offset a spike in fuel prices, said Franciscus Haryono, the head of the post office in Jayapura, the provincial capital.
Rescuers have found the money, which was partly scorched, and will hand it over to the authorities, Soelistyo said.
Indonesia has had a string of airline tragedies in recent years. In December, all 162 people aboard an AirAsia jet were killed when the plane plummeted into the Java Sea as it flew through stormy weather on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to Singapore.
Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.