Hope for 18 on downed Indo plane as wreck found

AP News
Posted: Sep 30, 2011 10:09 AM
Hope for 18 on downed Indo plane as wreck found

Rescuers clung to hope Friday that some of the 18 people aboard a plane that crashed in the mountains of western Indonesia may be alive, after spotting the aircraft intact with one of its doors open.

Rugged, forested terrain and bad weather have prevented rescuers from reaching the crash site by foot, said Sunarbowo Sandi, head of the local search-and-rescue team, after carrying out 300-foot (100-meter) -high aerial surveys.

But just before darkness fell, a helicopter lowered two rescuers by rope into a valley about 300 meters (yards) from the wreckage, said Sunarbowo Sandi, head of the local search-and-rescue team.

"They haven't reached it yet ... There is a steep ravine separating them and the plane, so we don't know yet if anyone survived," Sandi told The Associated Press.

The Spanish-designed CASA C-212 lost contact with air traffic control early Thursday while flying from North Sumatra to Aceh province. Minutes later, it sent out a distress signal, then dropped off the radar.

A helicopter spotted the wreckage on a 60-degree slope in the Bahorok region at an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,524 meters).

Though the plane's nose and cockpit were badly damaged, the fuselage and wings were intact, said Robur Rizallianto, a safety manager with the airline, PT Nusantara Buana Air.

"One of its doors is open," he said, holding out hope that it could mean some of the 14 passengers and four crew were alive.

Four of those on board were children.

Footage on MetroTV showed family members of the crash victims waiting at the airport in Medan, from where the plane departed, in hysterics.

They demanded clear information about the fate of their loved ones, accusing the airline and rescue teams of taking far too long.

"The conditions are really bad," Sandi, the search-and-rescue official, insisted, adding that tornado-like winds and heavy fog were hampering efforts to reach the crash scene.

The aircraft, made in Indonesia in 1989, was last inspected Sept. 22, Rizallianto said. It was in good condition, and a check ahead of takeoff Thursday also came up clean, he said.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelagic nation of 240 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents in recent years, from plane and train crashes to ferry sinkings. Many are blamed on overcrowding and poor safety standards.


Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report from Jakarta, Indonesia.