Airplane Crash Kills 117 in Indonesia
59 minutes ago
JAKARTA, Indonesia - An Indonesian jetliner crashed into a crowded residential neighborhood in the city of Medan shortly after takeoff Monday, killing all 117 on board and an unknown number on the ground, officials said.
The Mandala Airlines Boeing 737 was heading to Jakarta when it crashed one minute after takeoff and burst into flames, said Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa.
It was carrying at least 117 passengers and crew, said the airline's acting president, Maj. Gen. Hasril Hamzah Tanjung.
"They have all died," Edi Sofyan, a government spokesman in Medan, told The Associated Press by telephone. There were also casualties on the ground, he said, though he did not know how many.
Smoke billowed from the burning debris and dozens of houses and at least 10 cars were in flames or damaged. Hundreds of policemen, paramedics and residents were trying to evacuate victims.
Syahrial Anas, a doctor overseeing the removal of charred bodies, said flames were hampering their efforts. Officials said one of the dead included the governor of North Sumatra province, who was heading to the capital for a meeting with the president.
"We're having a hard time getting to the bodies, because of the heat," Anas told the AP.
Medan, the country's third largest city, has been a major staging point for tsunami relief operations in Aceh province, which occupies the northern tip of Sumatran island. The international airport is close to the center of town and is surrounded by densely populated residential areas.
Mandala Airlines is a Jakarta-based domestic carrier founded in 1969 by a military-run foundation. Its 15-plane fleet consists mainly of 1970s-vintage Boeing 737-200 jets. In recent years, the financially troubled airline has been forced to cut services and fares to remain competitive.
Tanjung said an investigation was being carried out into the cause of the crash.
The plane was nearly 25 years old, he said, and received its last comprehensive service in June. It had flown more than 50,000 hours and was due to be retired in 2016.
Monday's crash follows five major airline accidents in August, the deadliest month for plane disasters since May 2002. Some 334 people died in accidents in Peru, Venezuela, Greece and Tunisia last month. A plane also overshot a runway in Toronto and caught fire; no one died.
Indonesia's last crash involving a jetliner occurred in February 2005, when 26 people were killed when a plane operated by Lion Air, a low-cost carrier, skidded off the runway on Java Island, killing 26 people.
I heard about this on the way home from the grocery store. When my gather had his heart attack I flew out, and all that weekend, Discovery kept running a documentary on---you guessed it---air crashes, almost all of which they showed, involved a 737. So when I arrive at the gate at the airport, I look out the window, and what do I see? A plane with "737" painted in huge white numbers on the tail.
Ever since, it seems like every time I hear about a plane crash, a 737 is involved. Is there some component in them that screws up the earth's magnetic field or something, 'cause the damned things sure do seem to have an unnatural attraction for the ground.