JAKARTA, Indonesia – A plane with 27 passengers and crew crashed into the sea during a downpour Saturday in eastern Indonesia, killing everyone on board, a navy officer told local radio.
“I can confirm that all the passengers were killed when the plane exploded as it crashed into the sea,” a navy officer involved in the search 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.”
A transport ministry spokesman earlier said there were 27 people on board — 21 passengers and six crew — the Merpati Nusantara airlines MA-60 aircraft.
The twin turbo-prop plane took off from Sorong city in West Papua province for Kaimana district about 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the south, he said.
The navy official Gunawan said about 10 navy divers had tried to locate other passengers inside the wreckage, located at about six kilometres deep.
“We had difficulties locating them due to strong currents and limited equipment,” he said adding that the accident took place about 400 metres from the coastline.
Heavy rains poured down when the accident happened around midday, he said.
The airline officials were unable to give comments over the chronology of the accident or an official number of passengers.
The vast Indonesian archipelago relies heavily on air transport and has one of Asia’s worst air safety records.
In 2007, a now-defunct Adam Air plane with 102 passengers and crew crashed in deep water off the coast of Sulawesi, with no survivors.
No bodies were recovered and only fragments of the aircraft were washed up.