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Saturday, a plane carrying 25 passengers and crew went down in eastern Indonesia, killing everyone onboard according to local radio. “I can confirm that all the passengers were killed when the plane exploded as it crashed into the sea,” a navy officer told ElShinta radio. “The aircraft was smashed to pieces… We found 15 bodies floating on the water and the other passengers are trapped inside the wreckage.”
The crash happened during bad weather and the plane reportedly went into the ocean just short of the airstrip at the port town of Kaimana, in the eastern province of West Papua. The Indonesian archipelago is dependent on its air traffic but has one of Asia’s worst air safety records, according to the BBC. The twin turbo-prop plane, operated by Merpati Airlines, was flying from the coastal city of Sorong, also in the eastern part of West Papua.
The transport ministry initially told The Times of India that 27 people – 21 passengers and 6 crew members – had been onboard the Merpati Airlines MA-60 aircraft, but airline officials confirmed this evening, local time, that the deaths include 16 adult passengers, one child, two infants, two pilots, two flight attendants and two technicians, according to The Jakarta Post.
“The plane crashed as it was trying to make an emergency landing due to bad weather,” the Indonesian government spokesman Bambang S. Ervan said. Later the conditions of the fatal event were further elaborated; “The weather was bad as there was heavy rainfall, which shortened the [pilot's] range of vision. It was also very dark. Thus, the airplane did not reach the runway,” the director general at the Ministry of Air Transportation, Herry Bakti, was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.
Indonesia has been plagued by commercial airline crashes in recent years. According to The Times of India’s report, a Twin Otter plane – also operated by the aforementioned Merpati Airlines – crashed into a mountain side in a remote area of Papua in 2009, killing the 16 people onboard. Merpati Airlines was also responsible for the plane which in 2010 overran a runway after landing in Manokwari in West Papua. The craft broke intro three pieces and injured 44 of the more than 100 passengers.
In 2007, the European Union banned all of Indonesia’s airlines, including the national carrier Garuda. This followed a crash by the now-defunct Adam Air in which 102 passengers and crew were swallowed by the deep water off the coast of Sulawesi. No bodies were ever recovered and only fragments of the aircraft were washed up.
The EU relaxed the ban two years later under the reasoning that many of the safety issues had been resolved. Garuda and three other carriers were approved but Merpati Airlines is still on the ban-list.