Thursday, March 21

Plane carrying 18 crashes in Sumatra

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MEDAN: A passenger plane with 18 people on board crashed in fine weather on Indonesia’s Sumatra island Thursday, officials said, the sprawling archipelago’s fourth serious air accident this month, AFP reports.

The flight run by Indonesian airline Nusantara Buana crashed at 1,100 metre in a mountainous area around 70 km northwest of Medan city, transport ministry aviation head Herry Bakti said.

The Casa 212 turboprop plane, carrying 14 passengers and four crew, left Medan at 7.18 am local time bound for the nearby province of Aceh when it came down after sending a distress signal.

A search-and-rescue team was still trying to reach the remote crash site in the early afternoon and there was no word on the fate of those on board, who included four children. Bakti said there were no foreigners on the flight.

“We have found the plane, and the body is still intact, so we hope that the passengers have survived,” Bakti said, after the plane was sighted in aerial surveillance.

Local search-and-rescue chief Suhri Sinaga said that the aircraft had sent an emergency signal near Bahorok Mountain shortly before losing contact with air traffic control.

Bakti said that the weather in the area was fine and that the pilots would have had clear vision.

“At this point we don’t know what caused the crash,” he said.

Nusantara Buana regularly runs commercial flights in Sumatra. The airline has six aircraft in its fleet, according to the CAPA Center for Aviation.

The plane that crashed is a 1989 model that has flown over 11,000 hours. Bakti said that the craft’s last inspection was in November 2010.

The company, however, told Detik.com news website that the plane had undergone a routine check on September 22.

“When the aircraft left, it was in airworthy condition,” said Nusantara Buana safety manager Robur Rizallianto.

Bakti said the government would bring in tougher safety regulations and ask operators to carry out more training to prevent future accidents.

The vast Indonesian archipelago relies heavily on air transport and has a poor aviation record.

A helicopter chartered by US giant Newmont Mining crashed on Sunday in central Indonesia, killing two people on board.

Earlier this month, an Australian and a Slovak pilot were killed when their small Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft, which was carrying fuel and food to a remote area in Papua province, went down.

Another small aircraft, which was also transporting supplies to remote villages for a Christian humanitarian association in Papua, crashed last week, killing its American pilot and two passengers.