Indonesian military plane crashes; 98 dead

MAGETAN: An Indonesian military plane carrying troops and their families crashed into a row of houses and burst into flames today, killing at least 98 people, the latest in a string of accidents plaguing the beleaguered air force.

Black smoke billowed in the air as soldiers carried the injured past the burning wreckage of the C-130 Hercules - its tail resting upside down in a rice paddy and the rest of the charred fuselage scattered over several 100 metres.

Military spokesman Sagom Tamboen said the transport plane, built in 1980, plunged to the ground near an air force base in East Java province, slamming into a residential neighbourhood and then skidding into a field.

It was not clear what caused the crash, but several witnesses described seeing its right wing fall off while it was still in the air.

“I heard at least two big explosions and saw flashes of fire inside the plane,” said Lamidi, a 41-year-old peasant who was working in a nearby rice field and ran for cover. “The wing snapped off and fell to the ground.” The plane was carrying at least 109 passengers and crew, including troops and their families, when it went down in Geplak, a village 520 km east of the capital, Jakarta. At least 10 children were among them.

At least 98 people were killed, including two on the ground, and 15 others were injured, said Bambang Samudro, chief of the military air base in Magetan. Many of the injured suffered severe burns.

“Before the plane crashed, I heard several blasts and then it started wobbling from left to right,” Second Pvt Saputra said from his bed at the air force hospital. “It crashed to the ground and I was pinned under several people.”