All 113 on board aircraft believed dead
THE death toll from the crash of an Indonesian air force transport plane shortly after take-off yesterday in Medan city, North Sumatra, could reach 116, officials said.
Air force chief Agus Supriatna said the manifest showed there were 113 people on board the C-130 Hercules aircraft when it crashed, and he did not believe any had survived, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The local search and rescue agency also said that three people were killed on the ground when the 51-year-old plane went down near a newly built residential area, hitting a massage parlour and a small hotel.
At least 49 bodies had been recovered from the crash site by last evening, according to local television.
Many passengers were likely to be family members of servicemen and women, said a spokesman for Medan's Suwondo Air Force Base, where the plane took off.
At least one child has been confirmed killed.
The plane crashed at 12.08pm local time, two minutes after it had taken off from Suwondo, which is 5km from the crash site, The Jakarta Post reported.
A rescue operation began after the crash, with ambulances ferrying bodies from the site, while anxious residents milled around the smouldering wreckage.
The crash left buildings in ruins and reduced cars to flaming wrecks.
The plane was on its way to Tanjong Pinang, according to the local media, when the pilot asked to return to base because of technical problems.
"It passed overhead a few times, really low," said Elfrida Efi, a receptionist at the Golden Eleven Hotel.
"There was fire and black smoke. The third time it came by, it crashed into the roof of the hotel and exploded straight away," she told Reuters.
Other witnesses said the plane appeared to explode shortly before it hit the ground.
Medan's police chief described the bodies as "crushed by debris of the buildings and the fuselage", reported AFP.
Indonesia's air force temporarily grounded its remaining eight C-130B Hercules aircraft following the incident, a military spokesman said yesterday.
The force has now lost four C-130s.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 10 fatal crashes involving Indonesian military or police aircraft over the last decade. AGENCIES