Rescuers say they have discovered bodies near the wreckage of a Russian-made passenger plane that crashed into the slopes of an Indonesian volcano with 45 people aboard.
Gagah Prakoso, Search and rescue spokesman, said his teams reached a crater on the remote, rugged upper slopes of Mount Salak on Thursday afternoon but had not found any survivors.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“We entered the area… and found the dead bodies, but we cannot say about the number,” he said.
“I cannot say anything about the condition of the bodies,” Gagah said, but added: “A high speed jet plane hit the cliff, exploded and tore apart.”
A helicopter searching a mountain south of the Indonesian capital found the wreckage of the new Sukhoi Superjet 100 which disappeared on Wednesday morning, the Indonesian government said.
A Sukhoi spokesperson told Al Jazeera that those aboard consisted of 33 Indonesians, eight Russians, two Italians, a US citizen and a French citizen, including business people, Russian embassy officials and journalists.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Jakarta, said it was still unclear what had caused the crash.
“All we know is that the pilot asked to descend from 10,000 feet to 6,000ft just before they lost contact, so it is a big question as to why the pilot was asking to descend in this mountainous area, and why did the airport tower in Jakarta grant him permission to descend.”
“The flight should have lasted just 30 minutes in the area around Jakarta, but it never returned,” Vaessen said.
|Distraught relatives of passenger waited for news about
the plane at Jakarta Airport [Reuters]
“This was a brand new plane from Russia. It came into the country just yesterday and took people on board for an earlier test flight this morning. That all went well.”
Indonesia’s president held a press conference earlier, stating that a thorough investigation must be carried out into the cause of the crash.
Relatives of passengers gathered at Jakarta’s airport after the disappearance, waiting for information about the missing plane.
Yanny Mariana’s cried as she told reporters that one of her four friends on the flight had called her in panic.
He had earlier told her the plane would fly above the city of Bandung and be back in Jakarta in under an hour.
“But at around 3pm [08:00 GMT] he called me in a panic and I was worried because I knew it shouldn’t take that long to fly to Bandung and back,” she said.
The Superjet 100 is a new passenger plane built in Russia in a bid to lift its civil aviation industry from a post-Soviet slump and the demonstration flight was part of a tour dubbed the “Asian Roadshow” aimed at promoting the aircraft abroad.
The plane is considered crucial to Russia’s hopes of becoming a major player in the modern aviation market and improving the image of an industry scarred by frequent crashes of ageing Soviet-era jets.
Indonesian regional carrier PT Sky Aviation had agreed to buy 12 of the planes, with deliveries due to begin in 2012.