Rescuers in Indonesia Find Bodies Near Wreckage of Russian Jetliner

Posted May 10th, 2012 at 5:25 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Indonesian rescuers say they have discovered bodies near the shattered wreckage of a Russian jetliner that crashed into the side of a steep cliff south of Jakarta during a demonstration flight.

Officials say rescue operations will continue, but warn there is little chance of finding any survivors among the estimated 50 people aboard the Sukhoi Superjet, which went missing on Wednesday.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the crashed jetliner was located Thursday on a steep edge of Mount Salak, a dormant volcano south of the capital.

“The airplane crashed at the edge of Mount Salak. I have spoken directly to our officer in the field. It was around 1.5 kilometers from the informed point of scene. An investigation must be done immediately and thoroughly. Search and rescue operations must prioritize finding people on board.”

Family members of the victims who had gathered at a Jakarta airport broke down in tears when they heard that the wreckage of the plane had been located.

Bad weather initially hampered the search for the plane, which took off from Jakarta's Halim Airport shortly after 2 p.m. local time Wednesday. It was expected to return in less than an hour. But the plane dropped altitude from 3,000 to 1,800 meters and lost contact with air traffic control around Mount Salak, which is 2,200 meters high.

Indonesia's transport ministry said the 100-seat new passenger plane built by Russia in a move to boost its civil aviation industry, was on the second of two demonstration flights when it disappeared in the remote Bogor region. The people on board were all invited guests and included Indonesian airline and aviation executives, eight Russian crew members and five local journalists.

Russia has high hopes for its Superjet, which it believes would become an influential player in the global aviation market.

The Itar-Tass news agency said the newly-minted plane recently performed demonstrations in Central and South Asia, including flights in Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Burma and had logged about 6,500 hours of flight time since its 2008 maiden launch.

The jetliner is currently in use with Russia's largest carrier, Aeroflot, and the Armenian carrier, Armavia.