Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Indonesia Crash Dead Buried En Masse

MEDAN, Indonesia -- As weeping relatives threw flowers into a mass grave of about 50 bodies mutilated beyond recognition in Indonesia's worst air disaster, details of the plane's final radio conversation were broadcast on three private television stations Monday.


A copy of the radio transcript obtained by The Associated Press shows pilot Rachmo Wiyogo and the unidentified air traffic controller confusing the words "left" and "right" as the plane approached Medan's Polonia Airport on Friday through thick smoke haze caused by hundreds of forest fires on the island of Sumatra.


The flight data and cockpit voice recorders that give clues to what was happening in the aircraft's last half hour or so had not been found by Monday evening in the mud and undergrowth at the crash site.


Searchers had concentrated on pulling the mangled bodies out first. Damage from the crash and explosion, and quick deterioration in the tropical heat, made identification of bodies uncertain. News reports said no body was found intact.


Forty-eight coffins were placed into a wide pit Monday in a cemetery near Medan's airport that already contained 57 victims of a 1979 Garuda commuter plane crash. Hundreds of mourners, with masks over their faces to protect against the stench, wailed as shoveled earth plopped on to the wooden caskets.


One young girl tried to push past police to the edge of the pit. "Papa, papa," she sobbed, as the officers held her back. She reached out and tossed flower petals into the grave, unsure which coffin contained the body of her father.


Hospital and coroner officials had said the other 186 known passengers had been identified and returned to their families for burial. But those reports were thrown into confusion Monday.


The local director for the national Transport Ministry, who goes by one name, Ashwin, said that 44 Indonesians and 14 foreigners remained unidentified. He refused to answer when questioned about the discrepancy in only 48 coffins being buried.


Transportation Minister Haryanto Dhanutirto was quoted in Monday's Java Post newspaper as saying two extra bodies were found at the crash site, for a total of 236 dead. "It means there are two mysterious passengers and we have no identities yet," Haryonto was quoted as saying. Newspapers speculated about the possibility that people on the ground may have been killed, but there have been no reports of missing villagers.


President Suharto has asked Haryonto to move the airport, and in the meantime, to review all operations connected with flights, pilots and safety. The official Antara news agency quoted State Secretariat Minister Murdiono as saying the relocation is being planned "because there have been accidents involving flights to Medan."