JAKARTA: An Indonesian domestic passenger aircraft carrying 54 people lost contact with air traffic control on Sunday (Aug 16) in the remote eastern Papua region, the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) said.
"We can't confirm it has crashed. We can say contact has been lost with the plane," BASARNAS chief Bambang Soelystyo told Reuters by phone. "It's a Trigana airline plane carrying 54 people including 5 crew. We are working to get more details."
According to the official BASARNAS Twitter account, the ATR 42 turboprop aircraft belonging to Trigana Air Service was carrying 44 adult passengers, five crew and five children and infants.
The Trigana Air ATR 42 turboprop plane lost contact just before 3:00 pm (2.00pm Singapore time) after taking off from Sentani airport in Papua's capital Jayapura on a flight to Oksibil, the search and rescue agency said on Twitter. It was supposed to arrive at Oksibil airport just after 3:00 pm.
Ten minutes before it was due to land, the plane contacted Oksibil control tower asking to descend, Captain Beni Sumaryanto, Trigana Air's service director of operations told AFP.
But the plane never arrived. Half an hour later, Trigana Air sent another turboprop plane over the same route to look for the missing aircraft, he said.
"But the weather was very bad, it could not find it and the plane was turned back to Sentani," Sumaryanto said.
He added: "Oksibil is a mountainous area where weather is very unpredictable. It can suddenly turn foggy, dark and windy without warning.
"We strongly suspect it's a weather issue. It is not overcapacity, as the plane could take 50 passengers."
'VERY BAD WEATHER'
Transport ministry spokesman J A Barata confirmed the plane had lost contact.
"We are not sure what happened to the plane yet and we are coordinating with local authorities," he told AFP. "The weather is currently very bad there, it's very dark and cloudy. It's not conducive for a search. The area is mountainous."
News source chhannelnewsasia.com