Mon, 10 Feb 2003

Psychics enlisted in search for Cessna

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Cirebon, West Java

Four psychics have been enlisted in the search for a missing light training aircraft, four days after it disappeared in West Java with three people on board.

A 30-strong team has so far failed to find the Cessna 172 PK- DCM during the search around Mount Ciremai near the town of Kuningan, where the plane is feared to have crashed on Thursday.

Three helicopters and two planes were used in the search over the weekend.

Dadang Ekasmana, head of Penggung airport in the West Java city of Cirebon, said local people had provided the psychics.

"What they say about the location of the plane is similar to information from residents on the slopes of Mount Ciremai, and that obtained by the rescue team," he added.

Dadang said three of the psychics were hired from Jakarta and another from Cirebon.

The rescuers were told by several residents from Linggajati village, Cilimus subdistrict that they saw a rocking plane flying low into the northern slopes of the mountain.

"By midday at around between 12 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday, I saw a light aircraft flying low ... It later disappeared over the hilly jungle of Mount Ciremai," Linggajati resident Aan Angraeni, 35, said.

Similar information was given by local villagers Salman, 56, and Diyam, 40, who said they saw thick smoke billowing from the slopes near the area of Batu Lingga around midday Thursday.

"I don't know where the smoke came from. I didn't dare to get close. I thought it was a forest fire. But during the current rainy season, there are no forest fires."

Dadang admitted the rescuers were hampered by persistent thick clouds blanketing the mountain.

"Planes and helicopters will continue the search when the weather allows it. So when bad weather returns, we delay the mission temporarily," he said.

Included in the joint rescue team were officials from Penggung Airport, the Ministry of Transportation, the Air Force, PT Deraya Air Service, PT Pelita Air Service and PT Derazona.

The Cessna, belonging to the Deraya Flying School, was reported missing during its flight from Ahmad Yani Airport in the Central Java capital of Semarang to Jakarta's Halim Perdanakusuma airport.

The three occupants were identified as flying instructor Berty Franky Nongsina, 32, and two students, Gagak Eskandarian, 22, and Prasetyo Arwin Bunandir, 26.

Gagak's father, Capt. Ibnu Mulyana, the operations manager of PT Pelita Air Service, has joined the search and rescue mission.

Capt. Djoko Triono, a rescue team member from the Air Force unit in the West Java town of Majalengka, said the search would continue to focus on the northern hilly area of Batu Lingga.

"It is expected to take six hours (walk) to reach Batu Lingga from Linggajati village if the weather is good, and it will take longer if the weather is bad," he said.

Djoko said that as Batu Lingga was a steep valley beneath the mountain, retrieving the bodies would be more difficult.