Evacuation of crash victims takes two days

09/05/2011 07:10
Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Sat, 11/07/2009 1:03 PM | National


Rescuers needed two days to evacuate the bodies of four crew members who were killed onboard a Police Skytruck plane that crashed in a mountainous area in Puncak Jaya, Papua, on Monday.

Bad weather slowed down the evacuation of the crash site in the hilly Dorman Paz area, as an attempted airlift failed on Thursday.

A Kamov helicopter, piloted by Capt. Kim Kwang Su, finally managed to airlift the remains of the four Skytruck crew members to the Indonesian Air Force hangar at Sentani Airport in Jayapura at 10:33 a.m. local time on Friday.

The remains of the four victims were later taken to the local Bhayangkara Hospital for identification. After formal identification, they will be flown to Jakarta on a police Fokker 50 plane.

The Skytruck plane went missing after it lost contact with the control tower Monday. Two days later, the search and rescue team located the wreckage, but no survivors were found.

Despite the discovery of the plane wreckage on Wednesday, rescuers were unable to airlift the victims immediately due to the poor weather conditions around the crash site.

The location of the crash was at an elevation of 10,600 feet above sea level, where the weather is very cold and the area usually covered by cloud.

"On the first day of the rescue mission, on Thursday, the Kamov helicopter went to the crash site three times but failed to land because it was covered by cloud," search and rescue mission coordinator Suyatno said Friday.

"It went to the site again at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, while the weather was still clear, and was able to retrieve the bodies of the victims," he added.

Jayapura SAR member Second Lt. Absentius Sembiring, who was part of the rescue mission, said the rescuers had initially planned to rappel down by rope but the helicopter was eventually able to hover near the ground, so eight of the SAR members could leap to the ground without using ropes.

The SAR team had dropped a radio transmitter earlier, but it was smashed to pieces as it dropped onto the rocks below.

"The site was covered with rocks, apparently metal-bearing, evident from the poor radio signal and the compass not functioning," Sembiring said.

The bodies of the crew members were strewn over a wide area, prolonging the evacuation, he said.

"The distance from one body to another was between 100 meters and 150 meters, so it took a long time," he said.

Jayapura SAR operational division head Police Major Tatang Sudrajat said the natural landscape of Papua and the lack of weather-detecting equipment in remote villages were some of the factors contributing to the frequent air crashes in Papua.

"For example, a plane has flown into a mountain pass and the weather suddenly changes. It cannot simply turn around and go back.

"We have recommended that small villages with airstrips should be equipped with simple weather monitors," he said.

Tatang added that the human factor, such as the lack of experience in flying within Papua's regions, had also caused several accidents in the mountainous province.