MAKASSAR, Indonesia, (AP) – An Indonesian jetliner crashed into a remote mountainous region, killing at least 90 people. The airline said there were a dozen survivors, but the national aviation chief said Tuesday that report could not be confirmed.
“I hope the people are alive, but so far there is no clear information about that,” Ichsan Tatang told The Associated Press.
The Adam Air Boeing 737 sent out two distress signals before crashing Monday half way through its two-hour flight from Indonesia’s main island of Java to Sulawesi, in the northeast of the sprawling archipelago.
Rescue and search teams hiked through heavy rain and slippery forest paths for four hours Tuesday before reaching the plane’s wreckage.
Bodies and debris were scattered over 300 yards of jungle and jagged cliff face on Sulawesi island’s western coast, said Lt. Col. Firdaus, a airforce officer who goes by only one name.
Firdaus and other aviation officials said 90 bodies were found. Three of the 102 on board were American citizens, the U.S. embassy said, but it was not clear if they were among the dead. There were no other known foreigners on board.
It was the second time disaster struck the country in just a few days. On Friday, a passenger ferry broke apart in the Java Sea during a storm, leaving at least 400 dead or missing.
Hundreds of people gathered at Manado airport, the aircraft’s destination. Some collapsed when they heard the news that 90 people had died, while others angrily banged on the door of the Adam Air office there, demanding information, witnesses said.
Justin Tumurang’s twin sister was on the plane.
“Being a twin, we share almost every feeling. I felt something was not right, and it grew worse. Now I feel pain,” she said.
The plane sent out two distress signals half way through its two-hour flight Monday from the main island of Java to Sulawesi, a large island in the northeast of the sprawling archipelago, and then lost contact with authorities.
Tatang said the plane involved in Monday’s disaster was 17 years old, had flown 45,371 hours and passed its last inspection on Dec. 25.
“Everything was in order, the condition of the plane was good,” he said, saying it was too early too speculate on the cause of the crash.
Adam Air is one of at least a dozen budget airlines that have emerged in Indonesia since 1999, when the industry was deregulated. The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights to scores of destinations around the sprawling nation, but has raised some safety concerns, since many of the airlines are small and lease planes that are decades old.
Last year, an Adam Air jetliner lost all communication and navigation systems for four hours during a flight between the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and Makassar on Sulawesi Island, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing at a small provincial airport.
A day later, the plane flew to a regional airport with proper maintenance facilities without being given the go-ahead by aviation authorities, a major violation of national and international safety rules.
In September 2005, a Mandala Airlines Boeing 737 crashed after take off on Sumatra island, killing 143 people.
In September 1997, a Garuda Airlines Airbus crashed into a jungle-covered mountain slope in Sumatra, killing all 234 people aboard. Two months later, a Silk Air Boeing 737 jet crashed into a river on Sumatra, killing 104 people.
Adam Air, which began operations in 2003, was founded by Agung Laksono, the speaker of Indonesia’s house of representatives and the company’s chairman.