National

Bodies of air crash victims
evacuated to Ilaga

The bodies of the 10 victims of Friday's plane crash near Mimika were evacuated Monday from the crash site on the slope of Mt. Gergaji in Ilaga district, Puncak Jaya regency, by a joint search and rescue (SAR) team.

The SAR team, comprised of members of the Mimika branch of the National SAR agency and PT Freeport Indonesia's Emergency Response Rescue, evacuated the 10 bodies to the district capital of Ilaga for identification.

"A medical team and a team from the Papua provincial police are identifying the bodies before handing them over to their respective families," SAR team chairman and Mimika Air Base commander Lt. Col. Easter Hariyanto said.

A Mimika Air aircraft crashed Friday into the slope of Mt. Gergaji Friday, some 13,000 feet above sea level, reportedly due to bad weather. The plane did not explode but was found upside down and with major damage to its front and one wing.

All 10 passengers, including two crew members, were killed in the accident. Secretary of the Puncak Jaya poll body Marthen Jitmau, chairman of the Puncak Jaya election supervisory committee Herman Senanfi and church minister Martina Kiwak are among the deceased.

Bad weather and geographical difficulties in reaching the crash site hampered search and rescue efforts, delaying evacuation until Monday. The five-member joint SAR team was deployed to the crash site on Sunday to recover the bodies and prepare them for Monday's evacuation.

"I have just returned from Ilaga to directly monitor the evacuation process from the hard to reach site on the slope of Mt. Gergaji," Hariyanto told reporters at Moses Kilangin Airport in Timika on Monday.

He said three of the bodies would be sent to their families in Mulia on Tuesday. Marthen Jitmau will be flown to Sorong, West Papua, Herman Senanfi to Sentani, Jayapura, while Myanmarese pilot Ni Lin Aung and copilot Makmur Susanto will go to Timika before being sent to Jakarta.

"The evacuation today has run relatively smoothly, only that we have to make sure *the identity* of the victims before sending them to their families," Hariyanto said.

Head of the Mimika Air Transportation Sub-agency John Rettob, who is also operator of Mimika Air, added that the bodies of the plane's pilot and copilot had yet to be evacuated to Mimika as identification of the bodies had not yet been completed.

John said five members of PT Freeport's Emergency Response and Rescue team continue to stay at the rescue site to further check on the condition of the plane.

John also denied reports published and broadcast in local print and electronic media claiming that the plane was 21 years old. He said it was made in Switzerland on February 2008 and was bought by the Mimika Air in September of the same year.

"It was in a good condition and was airworthy as mentioned in the trial letter and license issued by the Indonesian Transportation Ministry," John said.

He added that the plane was officially launched on December 2008 following a long process and was operated by PT Trans Mimika under the ownership of the Mimika regency administration.

The plane, he went on, was insured by British insurance company Parahorizon and Indonesian insurance company Tugu Prima.

He said an official from the insurance company had gone to the crash site to verify the fate of the aircraft. He added that according to the insurance policy, the Mimika regency administration would receive a replacement plane.

"I'm optimistic that the regency administration will have another new plane provided by the insurance companies according to the agreed insurance policy," John said, adding the insurance value of the plane was Rp 2 trillion (US$260 million).

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