MEDAN, Indonesia (AP) — The death toll from the crash of an air force transport plane in the Indonesian city of Medan jumped to more than 140 on Wednesday, indicating a growing list of victims from the neighborhood where the plane went down.
North Sumatra police major A. Tarigan told TVOne that 141 bodies have been recovered from the rubble of a residential area where the C-130 Hercules crashed shortly after takeoff on Tuesday.
The air force says there were 122 people on the plane including military personnel and their families.
The crash of the aircraft, which had been in service since 1964, occurred only two minutes after it took off from Soewondo air force base in Medan on Sumatra, one of Indonesia’s main islands. It plowed into a building that local media said contained shops and homes.
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Witnesses said it was shooting flames and smoke before crashing. Air force chief Air Marshal Agus Supriatna has said the pilot told the control tower that he needed to turn back because of engine trouble and the plane crashed while turning right to return to the airport.
The air force repeatedly raised its figures for the number of the people on the plane, indicating lax controls and raising questions about whether it was accepting paying passengers despite previous promises to crack down on the promise. Hitching rides on military planes to reach remote destinations is common in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago that spans three time zones.
The plane’s manifest listed 50 people on the doomed flight from Medan to the remote Natuna island chain, according to North Sumatra police chief Eko Hadi Sutedjo, but the actual number was more than double that. The plane had traveled from the capital, Jakarta, and stopped at two locations before arriving at Medan.
Indonesia has a patchy civil aviation safety record and its cash-strapped air force has also suffered a series of accidents. Between 2007 and 2009, the European Union barred Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe because of safety concerns.
The country’s most recent civilian airline disaster was in December, when an AirAsia jet with 162 people on board crashed into the Java Sea en route from Surabaya to Singapore. There have been five fatal crashes involving air force planes since 2008, according to the Aviation Safety Network, which tracks aviation disasters.