Crews recover black box from Indonesian plane crash site

May 9th, 2011 - 12:46 am ICT by BNO News  

JAKARTA (BNO NEWS) — A search team on Sunday afternoon recovered the black box from a Merpati Nusantara Airlines passenger plane which crashed in the sea off Indonesia’s West Papua province on Saturday, officials said. All 27 people on board were killed.

The accident happened at around 2.05 p.m. local time on Saturday when Merpati Nusantara Airlines Flight 8968 was preparing to land at Kaimana Airport in West Papua province. It was on a domestic flight from Sorong Airport, also in West Papua.

According to the Ministry of Transportation, the procedures to land at the airport are ‘quite unique’ as planes have to fly over several mountains before turning left to attempt a landing. Contact was lost after the pilot reported turning left for the landing.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, but officials said there was heavy rain and strong winds at the time of the accident, significantly reducing the pilot’s visibility. The plane had been circling above the airport for at least 15 minutes in hopes for better weather.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation said the pilot may have attempted a last-minute water landing, but the China-built Xian MA60 aircraft broke up and sank quickly after it crashed about 600 meters (0.4 mile) from the airport.

On Sunday, search teams found the black box of the aircraft which might reveal the cause of the accident. “We want to know for sure what exactly caused the accident,” an official at the country’s National Committee for Transportation Safety (NCTC) said, adding that the wreckage is located about 15 meters (49 feet) deep.

As of late Sunday, officials said a total of 17 bodies had been recovered while the remaining 10 are believed to be trapped inside the wreckage. The aircraft was carrying 18 adult passengers, one child, two babies, and six crew members.

Saturday’s accident was the worst aviation accident in Indonesia so far this year. In February, five people were killed when a small passenger plane belonging to local airline Sabang Merauke Raya Air Charter (SMAC) crashed during a test flight in western Indonesia.

And in April last year, around 20 people were injured when a Boeing 737-300 belonging to Merpati Airlines crashed near Rendani Airport in West Papua Province.

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