Indonesia Air Force Crash That Killed 141 Sparks Investigation Into Paying Passengers

Indonesian authorities are investigating whether the plane violated military rules that prohibit picking up and charging non-military passengers.

by VICE News
Jul 1 2015, 3:45pm

Dedi Sahputra/EPA

The crash of a military aircraft that killed 141 people on Tuesday has led to a proposed investigation by Indonesia's air force as to whether the plane was violating orders by carrying paying passengers.

The 51-year-old C130 Hercules military plane that crashed in a residential neighborhood in the city of Medan killed all 122 people on board as well as others on the ground.

According to the Associated Press, sources claim that the plane was carrying many more passengers than the military first reported.

Initially, the air force said there were 12 crew members on board, but did not mention passengers. The military then repeatedly raised the number of people on board.

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According to Air Force Chief Air Marshal Agus Supriatna, the aircraft was only authorized to carry military personnel and their family members. Yet relatives and friends of some victims said they had paid for their flights.

Riski Ananda, a 20-year-old university student, told AP that his friend Musyawir paid a small administrative fee to board the flight at Pekanbaru on the large island of Sumatra, along with other university students heading to the remote island of Natuna.

Hitching rides on military planes to reach remote destinations is common in Indonesia, and students in Pekanbaru often use military flights to visit family.

Related: The Missing AirAsia Flight Looks Like The Latest In A Long String Of Southeast Asian Air Disasters

The plane — whose final destination was Natuna — had traveled from the capital, Jakarta, and landed at two locations before stopping over at Medan on Sumatra. The plane crashed just minutes after it took off in Medan, adding to questions about the reliability of Indonesia's air force.

In a tweet sent out on Tuesday night, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said there must be an evaluation of the age of the planes and defense systems. According to Reuters, Widodo promised on Wednesday to review the country's aging air force fleet.

On Wednesday, dozens of crash victims' family members gathered at Adam Malik Hospital, in Medan, where more than 100 wood coffins were arranged in rows.

This most recent aviation tragedy follows a civilian airline disaster that took place in December, when an AirAsia jet with 162 people on board crashed into the Java Sea en route from Surabaya, in Indonesia, to Singapore. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report