JAYAPURA, Indonesia – The bodies of all 54 people killed in a plane crash in eastern Indonesia have been recovered from a remote jungle site and flown to hospital, an official said Thursday, AFP reports. Authorities had initially hoped to use helicopters to transport the remains of Sunday’s crash from the site in Papua province, but bad weather meant the bodies had to be carried on foot out of the jungle.
Hundreds of locals and rescuers were involved in the arduous task of taking the bodies about 15 kilometres (nine miles) to the settlement of Oksibil, the intended destination of the Trigana Air plane. Captain Beni Sumaryanto, Trigana Air’s service director of operations, said all the bodies had been recovered, and had now been flown on to the Papuan capital Jayapura.
“They are now in the police hospital at Jayapura for identification,” he told AFP. “After that they will be given to the families.” The ATR 42-300 plane had set off from Jayapura on what was supposed to be a 45-minute flight to Oksibil, but lost contact 10 minutes before landing as it sought to descend in heavy cloud and rain. When rescuers reached the crash site two days later, they found the twin-turboprop aircraft in pieces scattered across a fire-blackened clearing, and the bodies of the 49 passengers and five crew who had been aboard.
Investigators are still combing the crash site for one of the plane’s flight data recorders, after having recovered the aircraft’s other “black box”, the cockpit voice recorder, earlier this week. The devices should provide vital clues about what caused the crash. A team of three investigators from France’s BEA agency, which probes air accidents, and four technical advisors from ATR, a European plane maker based in France, have arrived in the Indonesian capital Jakarta to help with the investigation.
The tragedy was just the latest air accident in Indonesia, which has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered major disasters in recent months, including the crash of an AirAsia plane in December with the loss of 162 lives.