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Suspected Wreckage of Missing Plane Carrying 54 People Spotted in Indonesia

A commuter plane flying in bad weather in Indonesia’s eastern Papua province lost contact with air traffic controllers minutes before it was supposed to land on Sunday.

by VICE News
Aug 16 2015, 2:54pm

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

An Indonesian commuter plane carrying 54 people lost contact with air traffic controllers minutes before it was supposed to land in the country's eastern Papua province on Sunday, and was considered missing until locals spotted what is believed to be the wreckage in a mountainous area. It's still unclear if there are any survivors.

"The plane has been found," the Indonesian transport ministry's director-general of air transportation told AFP, adding that, "verification is still in process."

There were 49 passengers and five crew members aboard the plane when it went down. Five of those passengers were children, including three infants.

The flight, operated by Trigana Air Service, was a short one — just 42 minutes, from the province's capital, Jayapura Papua, to the city of Oksibil — but the mountainous terrain was treacherous and the weather was bad.

The heavy rain, strong wind, and fog that may have factored into the crash also hampered an aerial search effort for the plane on Sunday, which was called off due to poor visibility. The search is scheduled to resume on Monday morning. About 150 rescuers are also set to begin searching on the ground in an area known for its thick forest and steep elevation.

Related: Wreckage Confirmed As Part of Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

Local villagers in Papua's Bintang district told police that they witnessed a plane flying low before crashing into the side of a mountain around the time the plane went missing. The pilot did not give a distress call before the plane lost contact with ground control, transportation ministry spokesman Julius Barata told the Associated Press.

In 2007, Trigana Air Service was put on a list of airlines banned from operating in the European Union due to safety concerns.

According to the Aviation Safety Network's online database, the airline has had 14 serious incidents since it began operating in 1991 — including one incident in 2010 in which a ATR-42 twin turboprop plane, the same model as the one that went missing on Sunday, crashed in a rice field near Indonesia's Balikpapan-Sepingan Airport. Substantial damage to the plane was reported in that incident, but no one was killed. 

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