Hope for 18 missing in Indonesia plane crashJakarta - There were hopes Friday there could be survivors from an Indonesian plane that crashed with 18 people aboard, the government said, after rescuers spotted the fuselage intact and a door open.
The Casa 212 turboprop plane, carrying 14 passengers including four children, and four crew, went down in Sumatra island on Thursday after departing Medan city, in Sumatra, for the nearby province of Aceh.
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But the commercial flight run by Nusantara Buana Air sent a distress signal soon after and crashed at 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) in the mountainous Bohorok area, around 70 kilometres (40 miles) northwest of Medan.
A search-and-rescue team determined Thursday that the fuselage was largely undamaged and early Friday morning they reported from a helicopter that a door to the aircraft had been opened.
"They saw an open door, which makes us think that some passengers may be alive, so we are hopeful," transport ministry aviation head Herry Bakti told AFP, adding that there were no foreigners on the flight.
The rescue team were unable to reach the site Thursday because of poor access to the area and difficult terrain.
"The first thing we'll do today is place an emergency helipad at the site, and hopefully we can get on the ground soon," Bakti said.
Local daily newspaper Kompas reported that families of the missing had begun a search mission themselves, frustrated with the slow response.
Bukari, a relative of a couple on the plane, said he was frustrated by the conflicting information from police and the media.
"Officials said that they could see the crash from the air by Thursday afternoon. If they already know where the crash is, why not immediately rescue the people?"
"The government could have used a helicopter on Thursday, for example," Bukari told Kompas.
Nusantara Buana regularly runs commercial flights in Sumatra. The airline has six aircraft in its fleet, according to the independent CAPA Centre for Aviation.
The downed plane is a 1989 model that has flown over 11,000 hours. Bakti said that the aircraft's last inspection was in November 2010.
The company, however, told news website Detik.com that the plane had undergone a routine check on September 22.
"When the aircraft left it was in airworthy condition," Nusantara Buana safety manager Robur Rizallianto said Thursday.
The vast Indonesian archipelago relies heavily on air transport and has a poor aviation record.
There have been several crashes in recent weeks.
A helicopter chartered by US giant Newmont Mining crashed on Sunday in central Indonesia, killing two people on board.
Earlier this month, an Australian and a Slovak pilot were killed when their small Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft, which was carrying fuel and food to a remote area in Papua province, went down.
Another small aircraft, which was also transporting supplies to remote villages for a Christian humanitarian association in Papua, crashed last week, killing its American pilot and two passengers.
by Paul Handley and Andrew Beatty
(c) 2011 AFP
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