JAKARTA (Reuters) - All 54 people on board a Trigana Air aircraft were killed in a crash two days ago in Indonesia’s Papua province, the latest in a string of aviation disasters in the Southeast Asian archipelago, officials said on Tuesday.
Major-General Heronimus Guru, operations director at Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, told a news conference in the capital the passengers’ remains were being put into body bags but poor weather had hampered efforts to recover them by air.
Officials have declined to comment on the cause of Sunday’s crash until the results of an investigation by the national transport safety committee are known, but Guru said the terrain in Indonesia’s easternmost province may have been a factor.
“There’s a possibility the aircraft hit a peak and then fell into a ravine because the place that it was found in is steep,” he said.
The treacherous terrain of forest-covered ridges hampered rescuers’ efforts to reach the site where the Trigana Air Service ATR 42-300 plane came down.
The aircraft’s black box flight recorder, which should provide investigators with some answers, was found in the early afternoon. The device will be taken to Oksibil town tomorrow, depending on the weather, Guru said.
Television broadcast footage of rescuers in camouflage fatigues and surgical masks hacking through foliage and sifting through debris at the crash site as a helicopter hovered overhead.
There were 44 adult passengers, five children and infants and five crew on the short-haul flight from provincial capital Jayapura south to Oksibil.
The twin turboprop aircraft was also carrying about $470,000 as part of a village assistance program.
Poor infrastructure in the province means aid money is often flown in by air, said Abu Sofjan, spokesman for the national postal service, four of whose workers were among the passengers.
There was no suggestion the money was somehow linked to the crash.
Five members of the Bintang Highlands district parliament and government were also on board, online news service detik.com reported. Reuters was not able to verify the report.
All on board were Indonesian, officials have said.
Officials of Trigana, placed on a European Union list of banned carriers since 2007 over safety or regulatory concerns, were not immediately available for comment.
The aircraft made its first flight 27 years ago, online database Aviation Safety Network says. Trigana Air Service has a fleet of 14 aircraft, which are 26.6 years old on average, according to the airfleets.net database.
Trigana has had 14 serious incidents since it began operations in 1991, Aviation Safety Network says. Besides the latest crash, it has written off 10 aircraft.
Indonesia has a patchy aviation record, with two other major crashes in the past year.
In December, an AirAsia flight went down in the Java Sea, killing all 162 on board. More than 100 people died in June in the crash of a military transport plane.
Indonesia scored poorly on a 2014 safety audit by the U.N. aviation agency, largely because its Ministry of Transportation is understaffed, said two sources familiar with the matter, as the country struggles to cope with the rapid expansion of air travel.
Additional reporting by Fergus Jensen; Writing by Nicholas Owen; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alan Raybould