The wreckage of an Indonesian plane with 54 passengers has been found in the remote western Papua region of the sprawling archipelago nation, officials say.
Indonesia's transport minister told reporters that medium-sized turboprop plane, belonging to local carrier Trigana Air Service, had been found in the Bintang highlands region, not far from its intended landing site at Oksibil airport.
He did not say whether anyone had survived. There was no indication that the pilot had made a distress call, he added.
Earlier, media cited Trigana Operations Director Beni Sumaryanto as saying there had been reports of a crash from a village in the forested and mountainous district of Oksibil, adding that search teams would check that area in the morning.
Local villagers told authorities that they saw a plane crash into a mountain, and scores of rescuers were heading to the remote area and will begin searching there at daybreak Monday. An air search for the missing plane was suspended and will resume Monday as well.
The ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane was carrying 49 passengers and five crew members on the scheduled 42-minute journey, Barata said. Five children, including three infants, were among the passengers.
The weather was poor near Oksibil, with heavy rain, strong winds and fog, when the plane lost contact with the airport minutes before it was scheduled to land, said Susanto, the head of Papua’s search and rescue agency, earlier on Sunday.
Indonesia has had its share of airline woes in recent years. The sprawling archipelago nation of 250 million people and some 17,000 islands is one of Asia’s most rapidly expanding airline markets, but is struggling to provide enough qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and updated airport technology to ensure safety.
From 2007 to 2009, the European Union barred Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe because of safety concerns.
Last December, all 162 people aboard an AirAsia jet were killed when the plane plummeted into the Java Sea as it ran into stormy weather on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to Singapore.
That disaster was one of five suffered by Asian carriers in a 12-month span, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing in March 2014 with 239 people aboard during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
(With AP and Reuters)