Fri, 28 Mar 2003

Plane crash kills four in Papua

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

At least four people were killed and 12 others injured after a Twin Otter plane with 16 people on board crashed into a mountain in Puncak Jaya regency moments after takeoff on Thursday.

Sources in the local administration said that the plane was last seen at 12:30 p.m. local time above Tuogi village, some 8 kilometers south of Mulia, the capital of Puncak Jaya regency.

The plane, belonging to the regency administration, was flying from Mulia to Wamena. It took off at 12:27 p.m. and crashed three minutes later.

The four casualties were identified as Suparno, head of the local airline company, PT Air Regional, in Wamena regency, technician Agus Sujono, and two passengers, Melena Tabuni and Timotius Murid.

Local police spokesman Sr. Comr. Daud Sihombing and the operations director of PT Air Regional, FX Bambang, confirmed the accident but gave no detailed information.

The local authority immediately sent a rescue team to the location to find the victims.

Six of these have since been transported to the Dok II hospital in Jayapura and the rescue team is expected today to transport others from the crash scene.

Papuan people frequently have to use aircraft due to the difficult terrain and lack of infrastructure. They hire planes to travel and transport supplies between cities in the interior of the province.

National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) chairman Oetarjo Diran meanwhile said that his committee would send an investigating team to the scene.

Diran added that he had not been able to identify the cause of the accident. "All I know is that the plane crashed three minutes after takeoff," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

The Puncak Jaya regency administration purchased the Twin Otter plane from Papua New Guinea early last year to connect the remote regency with other Papuan towns and cities.

It started flying on Sept. 2 last year and provided transportation services between the regencies of Jayapura, Wamena, Manokwari and Nabire.