JAYAPURA, Indonesia - Bad weather on Wednesday hampered efforts to recover the bodies of 54 passengers and crew killed when a plane crashed in remote eastern Indonesia, an official said.
The plane operated by Indonesian carrier Trigana Air went down Sunday during a short flight in bad weather in Papua province, killing everyone on board.
Rescuers finally reached the crash site, near the settlement of Oksibil that had been the plane's destination, two days later after initial efforts were hindered by the rough terrain, thick fog and heavy rain.
They found the ATR 42-300 twin-turboprop aircraft in pieces scattered across a fire-blackened clearing, and the bodies of those who had been aboard. They also recovered the plane's black box flight data recorders.
It was just the latest air accident in Indonesia, which has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered major disasters in recent months, including the crash of an AirAsia plane in December with the loss of 162 lives.
Authorities planned to airlift the dead from the site but continuing bad weather Wednesday had so far made this impossible, said Captain Beni Sumaryanto, Trigana Air's service director of operations.
"The weather is not good today, only 500 metres visibility," he told AFP from Jayapura, Papua's capital. "It's terrible." Two helicopters were ready to help with the recovery, he said. About 75 people stayed overnight near the crash site expecting to begin the recovery on Wednesday.
A team of three investigators from France's BEA agency, which probes air accidents, has headed to Indonesia along with four technical advisors from ATR, a European plane maker based in France, to look into the accident.
The plane was also carrying 6.5 billion rupiah (S$660,000) in social assistance funds that were to be distributed to poor families. Some of the money has been found, although some of it is burnt.
The plane had set off from Jayapura on what was supposed to be a 45-minute flight to Oksibil, but lost contact 10 minutes before landing as it sought to descend in heavy cloud and rain.
The airline has said the accident was likely caused by bad weather.
Small aircraft are commonly used for transport in rugged Papua, one of the most remote corners of the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, and bad weather has caused several accidents in recent years.
Trigana Air, a small domestic Indonesian airline, has experienced a string of serious incidents and is banned from flying in European Union airspace.