Haze stymies search for chopper feared crashed in Lake Toba
The Jakarta Post
Thick haze has disrupted a search for missing helicopter EC 130 PK-BKA in the waters of Lake Toba, North Sumatra, where the aircraft is thought to have crashed.
As of Monday afternoon, a joint team comprising personnel from the police, military, SAR officials and locals had not yet located the helicopter or any of the five people on board.
Samosir Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Eko Suprihanto said that the search's first day had focused on the waters bordering Samosir and Toba Samosir regencies based on reports from fishermen and locals who saw the helicopter circling over the lake before crashing into the water.
'We think the chopper crashed in Lake Toba waters between Balige and Onan Runggu,' Eko told The Jakarta Post, adding that a number of fishermen had reported hearing a loud bang , followed by a large wave on the lake.
Fishermen, Eko said, had also joined the search, but thick haze had disrupted their efforts.
'The haze over Lake Toba is very thick. The visibility is only 100 meters, making it tricky to find the missing chopper,' Eko said on the sidelines of the search on Monday.
The search would be continued despite thick haze with a number of ships and hundreds of personnel from the joint team, he added.
The chartered EC 130 helicopter belonging to PT Penerbangan Angkasa Semesta (PAS) was reported to have lost contact on its flight from Samosir Island to Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, on Sunday.
On board were pilot Capt. Teguh Mulyanto, 55, and engineering crewmember Hari Poerwantono, both residents of Pondok Cabe, South Tangerang.
The helicopter was also carrying three passengers, namely Sugianto, 47, of Tanjung Morawa, Deli Serdang, who had chartered the aircraft, and Nurhayanto, 46, and Fransiskus Subihardayan, 22, both from Yogyakarta.
PAS chief pilot Samsul Sabirin said the helicopter had departed from Samosir for Kualanamu at 11:35 a.m.
'When [the helicopter] took off it was still in contact with our system. The last contact was made at 11:50 a.m.,' said Samsul at Kualanamu Airport on Monday, adding that the aircraft had been scheduled to arrive at Kualanamu at 12:50 p.m.
According to Samsul, the weather was good at the time of the flight, the helicopter was in good condition and the pilot was experienced, with 5,020 flying hours under his belt.
Separately, Sugiyanto's wife Fatmawati, 46, said she had been shocked by the news that the helicopter was missing, and expressed hope that the aircraft and all aboard would be found alive and well.
'I do hope my husband can be found alive,' the mother-of-four said.
On Oct. 2, a Twin Otter plane belonging to PT Aviastar Mandiri crashed on Mount Latimojong in Luwu regency, South Sulawesi, around 2,700 meters above sea level after losing contact, killing all 10 people on board, including three crewmembers.
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