Mon, 31 Mar 2003

Overload may have caused plane crash: Victim

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

Tina Telenggen, one of 15 people injured when a Twin Otter plane crashed into a hill moments after takeoff in Mulia on March 27, died on Friday, bringing the death toll to five.

Tina, who suffered from severe head and spinal injuries, died in the intensive care unit at Dok II General Hospital in Mulia.

Dr. Markus L. Siganna regretted that his medical team could not save Tina because of the seriousness of her injuries, and sent her and the other injured victims to the hospital in the city.

"We couldn't do much to help her," he said.

Markus said that of the 15 injured in the crash, four were listed in critical condition and put in intensive care, while two others were going to be sent to Surabaya and Jakarta for further medical treatment.

"The family of Yoseph Matutina will take him to Surabaya for spinal surgery while Septiadi, the copilot, will be taken to MMC Hospital in Jakarta," he said.

The other seriously injured victim will stay in the hospital's intensive care unit.

"We are doing our best to save the three people listed in critical condition. But they have the right to get better medical care at other hospitals," he said.

Four people were killed instantly when the aircraft belonging to the Puncak Jaya regency administration crashed into the side of a hill three minutes after taking off from the airport in Mulia on March 27.

Two bodies were buried in Mulia while the other two victims, identified as Suparno and Agus Djoko, were taken to Jakarta for burial there.

The plane, piloted by Emal Erwandani, was bound for Wamena.

While there has been no official explanation on the cause of the crash, two experts from the National Air Transportation Safety Association are investigating the incident.

"We cannot say what the cause of the crash was yet, as we're waiting for the results of their investigation," the chief of the local transportation office, Soleman Wairyo, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Yoseph Matutina told the Post that the crash likely had a lot to do with the aircraft being overloaded.

"Only minutes after taking off, the airplane leaned to the left and when the pilot tried to right the plane, it crashed into the hill. The plane was carrying 19 passengers, including its crew, and a lot of cargo," he said.

He said he saw the rear of the plane hit the hill first.

There have been dozens of plane crashes in the province as air travel is the main form of public transportation in this swampy, mountainous, densely populated territory.

Under special autonomy, the province is developing a network of roads to connect the provincial capital with remote towns in the large province.