Miraculous escape as Indonesia jet skids off runway

| Apr. 13, 2010 |

Published by The Times

Anne Barrowclough and Girish Gupta

With the aircraft's left wing breaking off and fuselage splitting in two, passengers on a flight landing on the Indonesian island of Papau must have thought this was the end.

After ploughing through trees, the broken plane came to a rest and the103 passengers on board realised that they had had a miraculous escape. No one had died. Only 20 passengers were injured.

The Merpati Airlines’ Boeing 737 broke into pieces early this morning as it bounced off the tarmac at Rendani domestic airport in Manokwari, West Papua


The accident has been attributed to bad weather, including heavy rain and fog.

"It skidded off the runway and part of its body landed in a river," Herry Bhakti Singayuda, West Papua’s director-general of civil aviation, said.

"All 103 passengers and six crew members are safe. Some are injured. They have been rushed to hospital."

Witnesses reported that the left wing broke off as the plane ploughed through trees at the end of the runway.

The body of the plane came to rest with the tail section in the river and the cockpit almost sheared off.

Bambang Ricky, the local police chief, told Indonesia's Antara news agency that the plane's fuselage was split open in the accident.

Many of the injured had shattered limbs and serious head injuries, Benget Hutugalung, an emergency nurse at the Manokwari Hospital, said.

The plane was flying a domestic route from Sorong, also in West Papua province, to Manokwari, a distance of about 210 miles (340km).

Australian officials in Jakarta are seeking advice from the Indonesian authorities to determine whether any Australians have been affected.

"We are very concerned by reports that a plane has skidded off a runway at Rendani domestic airport at Manokwari," a spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

"At this stage we have no information to suggest that Australians have been involved."

Poor safety standards and atrocious weather conditions have led to Indonesia having one of Asia’s worst air safety records.

Along with all other Indonesia airlines, the state-owned Merpati is banned in the European Union.

Although the Indonesian archipelago is heavily reliant on air transport, crashes are frequent.

Twenty-one people, including two Australian journalists, were killed in 2007 when an aircraft crash-landed at Yogyakarta, in Java.