Indonesia evacuates bodies after deadly helicopter crash

Indonesian rescuers Sunday flew the bodies of 13 people out of the jungle on Borneo island a day after they were killed when an army helicopter crashed and burst into flames.

Six people were also injured when the aircraft, carrying construction workers to build a military outpost, smashed into a cliff as it tried to land at the remote site near the Malaysian border.

All 13 bodies were retrieved from the charred wreckage of the Russian-made, Mi-17 helicopter Sunday at the crash site in Malinau district, North Kalimantan province.

Eleven bodies arrived at Tarakan, in northern Borneo, in a small aircraft and were taken by ambulance to hospital, an AFP correspondent in the city said.

The other two were en route to the city in a helicopter, said military spokesman Legowo Jatmiko. The bodies will be formally identified before being returned to their families.

The mission to retrieve the bodies was delayed by several hours in the morning due to bad weather but the clouds cleared later, allowing the aircraft to reach the site.

The rescuers -- mainly military and search and rescue agency personnel -- were equipped with mountaineering gear so they could reach the wreckage, which was on a cliffside.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his "deep sorrow" at the deaths.

"Hopefully the families of the soldiers and other victims will find fortitude in the face of this tragedy," he said in a tweet.

The military is set to launch an investigation into the crash now the bodies have been evacuated.

Military officials said they suspect it was caused both by bad weather and a problem with the back rotor blades, which appeared to spin out of control just before the helicopter hit the cliff.

Eight of those killed were civilian construction workers and five were crew members, who were military personnel. The six survivors were still in hospital receiving treatment for burns.

Borneo is a vast island shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, covered in lush jungle and home to rare animals such as orangutans.

There have been numerous fatal air crashes over the years in Indonesia and some have involved military aircraft.

by Penelope MACRAE © 2013 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Nov 10, 2013