UPDATE: Indonesian Plane Crash; 147 Dead; 14 Survive; Cause Unknown

September 6, 2005

The plane crash yesterday in the city of Medan on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra has taken 147 lives, 47 on the ground. Remarkably 14 people survived when the Boeing 737-200, operated by low-cost airline Mandala, went down. The cause of the crash, which occurred shortly after the plane took off on a flight to Jakarta, is still unknown.

According to one survivor, as reported by the BBC, the plane began to shake violently shortly after it took off; it veered suddenly to the left; he then saw a ball of fire coming from the cockpit. The plane lost altitude and crashed into a crowded quarter of the city of Medan. 14 people at the rear of the aircraft were able to escape before the wreckage exploded and burned. The fire was so intense that it prevented emergency crews from helping victims on the ground.

The plane’s flight data recorder has been found, but has not yet been examined. Authorities say that so far they have found no evidence of terrorism as a cause of the disaster.

The crash is the latest in a series of disasters that have hit a number of secondary and charter carriers (See IJ Website Aug. 14, 16 and 23). Mandala Airlines was established by Indonesia’s military in 1969. Its fleet consists primarily of 737’s of the type that crashed. All of which were made in the 1970’s. News reports indicate that the airline has been under pressure to cut costs and reduce services. The plane was reportedly completely overhauled in June and certified as conforming to safety standards.

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