UPDATE – All 54 bodies found in plane crash in Indonesia’s Papua

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Search and rescue agency officials confirm discovery of all victims in mountainous area; Transport Minister says black box also found

By Ainur Rohmah

JAKARTA – Indonesian search teams have discovered the bodies of the 54 people on board a passenger plane that crashed in the mountains of eastern Papua.

Major General Heronimus Guru, deputy of operations at the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), said Tuesday “the latest data we received at 12.15 p.m., Basarnas has found 54 bodies.”

Kompas.com also reported him as saying that it would be difficult to identify the victims due to the burnt condition of the remains.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Ignatius Jonan said the flight’s black box has been found, Detik.com reported.

Bambang Soelistyo, National Search and Rescue Agency chief, also confirmed the discovery of the victims by saying, “all the crew and passengers have been found.”

Teams from the agency are currently preparing to transport the bodies to the airport in Oksibil, a remote settlement near the border with Papua New Guinea –where the plane had been headed when it crashed Sunday.

From the city, they are due to be flown to a hospital in the provincial capital of Jayapura, where they will undergo an identification process.

“The rescuers’ key task is evacuate the victims as soon as possible,” Detik.com quoted Soelistyo as saying. “The condition of the aircraft is shattered, mostly burnt.”

The wreckage of the Trigana Air Service plane had been spotted Monday around 7 miles from the Oksibil airport after a serch plane detected smoke, but the hunt later had to be called off for a second day due to thick fog and rain.

Ground rescuers were having to traipse through thick vegetation in the Bintang Mountains Regency to reach the spot, which is at an altitude of around 2529 meters (8,300 feet).

The flight – a short-haul ATR 42-300 airliner belonging to Trigana Air Service – had been headed from Jayapura – the provincial capital of Papua – to Oksibil when it lost contact at 2.55 p.m. (0755GMT) Sunday.

It departed at 2.22 p.m. but had not arrived at its destination at 3.15 p.m. as scheduled.

The mountainous area where some peaks rise up to 4,000 meters above sea level is difficult to access, and search efforts were also called off overnight Sunday.

Outside of the 54 passengers and crew, the aircraft was also carrying around Rp 6.5 billion ($470,000) to be distributed to the poor in the region, according to Kompas.com.

The Trigana Air Service, which had started operations by perform specific activities such as forest mapping, currently provides freight services as well as passenger flights to 24 destinations in Indonesia.

Indonesian aviation – both civilian and military — has suffered a number of blows to its record. It has resulted in the European Union – which had barred flights by Indonesian airlines between 2007 and 2009 – reissuing the ban last June.

In late June, an air force plane crashed in a residential area of North Sumatra province’s capital, killing more than 140 people who were aboard the flight and on the ground.

On Dec. 28, a flight of AirAsia’s Indonesia subsidiary crashed in the Java Sea with 162 people on board.

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