6:16 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Indonesian Crash Searchers Recover Black Boxes From Plane

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Low-lying clouds and rugged terrain on Tuesday were hindering efforts to remove bodies from the crash site, officials said. Search teams hastily built a makeshift helipad in hopes that a helicopter could land and evacuate victims.

By afternoon, however, any attempt at evacuation was called off for the day because of the clouds, some hovering only about 30 feet above the site, Harry Bambang Soelistyo, the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters in Jayapura.

Mr. Soelistyo added that search teams had found some of the 6.5 billion rupiah in cash, or about $472,000, that was being carried on the plane by government employees from Jayapura and was intended to provide fuel subsidies for residents of Papua. Some of the money was charred, he said, and the majority remained missing.

A spotter plane had located and photographed debris from the flight on Monday in a heavily forested area of the Bintang Mountains district of Papua, but the search for the plane, which disappeared Sunday in stormy weather, was halted because of darkness.

Search teams, traveling on foot, were forced to stop again on Monday night and resume hiking to the crash site at daybreak Tuesday, officials said.

The aircraft, operated by Trigana Air Service, left Jayapura on Sunday afternoon for Oksibil, about 170 miles to the south. It lost contact with air traffic controllers about 30 minutes after takeoff, said Toha, a spokesman at the command center of the search and rescue agency in Jakarta.

The plane was carrying 49 passengers, including two children and three babies, along with five crew members from Trigana, said Mr. Toha, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

Mr. Tatang said the victims’ bodies would be transported to Oksibil by helicopter, then taken to Jayapura by airplane. “The victims have all been recovered by search and rescue and are under their care,” he said.

About 200 relatives and friends of the passengers anxiously waited at the airport in Oksibil on Tuesday afternoon for bodies to arrive, a high school teacher there, Augustine, said by telephone.

Indonesia has had many commercial and military aircraft disasters in recent years, including two other deadly crashes in the past eight months, raising questions about the safety of the industry.

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