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More than 100 escape crash in Indonesia

Published March 8, 2007


YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia - Survivors of the fiery crash landing of a Boeing 737-400 Wednesday said the plane appeared to be going too fast and shook violently before it touched down, lurched off the runway and exploded in flames, killing at least 21 people.

About 115 dazed and bloodied survivors staggered from the Indonesian jetliner after it broke through a fence and came to rest in a rice paddy. Most escaped without major injuries, although several suffered burns and broken bones.

Those killed were trapped in the wreckage of the Garuda Airlines plane after it suddenly caught fire, sending billowing clouds of black smoke and flames high into the air. The plane had been carrying 140 passengers and crew, officials said. Two people were missing.

It was the third plane crash in three months in Indonesia and raised questions about the safety of the country's booming airline sector.

Alessandro Bertellotti, a journalist with Italian broadcaster RAI, said the plane was going at a "crazy speed" as it approached Yogyakarta airport after a 50-minute flight from the capital, Jakarta.

"It was going into a dive, and I was certain we would crash on the ground," he told the Italian news agency ANSA. "I was sitting behind the wing. I saw that the pilot was trying to stop it, but it was too fast. It literarily bounced on the strip."

Wayan Sukarda, an Indonesian cameraman for Australia's Seven Network, managed to scramble off the plane, then shot dramatic video of dazed passengers fleeing as smoke poured from the fuselage. An explosion and fireball then ripped through the air, apparently as the fire reached a fuel tank, the footage showed.

About 19 foreigners were aboard the flight, nine of them Australian diplomats, journalists and security officials visiting the country for an antiterrorism conference. Indonesian officials said at least two Australians were among the dead. The Indonesian government ordered an investigation into the crash.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to help the Indonesian government investigate the crash.

Cleanup begins after quake

Relatives of those killed in Tuesday's powerful earthquake sobbed and threw rose petals on graves Wednesday, while others began clearing rubble from their crumpled homes. The magnitude 6.3 quake that struck Sumatra island left at least 52 dead, said Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi, lowering the death toll by nearly 20. He said some victims had been counted twice. Officials said some 250 people were injured.

Fast Facts:

Airline accidents in Indonesia

Wednesday: A Garuda Airlines Boeing 737-400 shoots off a runway and erupts in flames in Yogyakarta, killing at least 21 people.

Feb. 21: An Adam Air Boeing 737-300 makes a hard landing in stormy weather at Surabaya airport, cracking the fuselage but causing no injuries.

Jan. 1: An Adam Air Boeing 737 plunges into the sea in central Indonesia in stormy weather. All 102 people on board are killed.

Sept. 5, 2005: A Mandala Airlines Boeing 737-200 crashes seconds after takeoff from Sumatra island, killing 102 people aboard and 47 others on the ground.

Jan. 16, 2002: A Garuda Airlines Boeing 737 makes an emergency landing on a river on Java. A flight attendant is killed.

Dec. 19, 1997: A Singapore-owned SilkAir Boeing 737-300 crashes into a river on Sumatra, killing all 104 people aboard.

Sept. 26, 1997: A Garuda Airbus A-300 crashes into a jungle and explodes while trying to land on Sumatra. All 234 aboard are killed.

[Last modified March 8, 2007, 02:02:54]

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