Sat, 12 Feb 2000

Search team fails to locate missing glider in Puncak

BOGOR (JP): Rescuers on Friday still failed to trace the whereabouts of a 17-year-old paraglider who went missing after being surprised by storms while flying in foggy skies in the popular mountainous resort of Puncak on Tuesday afternoon.

A senior rescue team member, Gendon Subandono, said the joint team members, including Air Force personnel deployed with two helicopters, had in the past three days carefully combed the area within the radius of some two kilometers from the spot where paraglider Dadang Suharya was last seen by his colleagues.

"But the search still ended fruitlessly," said Gendon, who is deputy chairman of the Association of Indonesian Hand Gliders (PLGI), in conversation with The Jakarta Post at the rescue team's homebase, some 400 meters from the paraglider's launching pad.

He blamed the area's hilly surface and the unfriendly weather for the rescuers' difficult mission.

"The mountain slope is steep. What's more, the continuous presence of thick fog in this area has limited our vision," Gendon added.

He said that members of the search and rescue team, which also included police personnel, members of University Student Nature Lovers and local paragliders, had difficulty estimating the possible direction as to where Dadang was dragged by the storm.

"The wind was very strong at that time and we, therefore, have to widen the area to be searched," he added.

Dozens of the rescuers explored every inch of the ground, which consisted mainly of tea plantations and small trees. Until Friday morning, they were supported by two helicopters from the Atang Senjaya Air Force field in Bogor.

The launching pad used by the paragliders is a 20-meter by 20- meter square field located on top of a hill in the middle of Gunung Mas Plantation in Puncak, a favorite cool-weather retreat for many Jakartans.

Besides members of local paragliding clubs, domestic and foreign tourists are often seen using the pad to fly their gliders.

To the front of the pad, paragliders enjoy views of vast tea plantations, the roofs of houses and the busy and winding Jl. Raya Puncak.

At a distance, Geger Benteng mountain and the thick forest at the Gede Mountain can be seen.

As usual

According to the elder brother of the victim, Nanang Sunarya, 19, Dadang and another athlete, Ade Basoni, were flying as usual on Tuesday.

"We went together to the launching pad driving in a Kijang van.

Ade started to fly around 11.30 a.m and was followed by Dadang minutes after," he recalled.

Nanang, a second year student at Economic Vocational Senior High School Cipayung in Megamendung district, said the weather was actually fine in the beginning when the two young men took flight.

"But right after Dadang took off, a strong wind came from the back of the hill and suddenly trapped him," he said.

A street vendor, Ujang Jujun, admitted that thick fog had gripped the area since Tuesday.

Nanang added that Ade was finally able to safely perform an emergency landing at a nearby landing pad.

"I contacted Dadang via a walkie-talkie and warned him to be calm, but I got no response at all," he recalled.

According to the standard regulations at the site, every paraglider is equipped with radio equipment.

He said the thick fog followed by strong winds made it impossible to locate the direction his brother traveled.

"The last time I saw him, he was at around 100 meters above the ground," he said, adding that he rushed to inform his family and surrounding dwellers after the incident.

He said Dadang, also his classmate, has been a keen paragliding hobbyist for 18 months.

Four of the five children in the family, Nanang said, enjoy the hobby. (asa)