The wreckage of a passenger jetliner that crashed in Indonesia during stormy weather was found in a remote mountainous region. The crash killed at least 90 people, aviation officials said Tuesday, clinging to fading hopes that a dozen others survived.
Bodies and debris were scattered over 300 meters (yards) of jungle and jagged cliff on Sulawesi island's west coast, said Lt. Col. Firdaus, an air force officer who goes by only one name.
The Adam Air plane sent out two distress signals before crashing Monday half way through its two-hour flight from Indonesia's main island of Java to Sulawesi, in the northeast of the sprawling archipelago, the AP reports.
Rescue and search teams hiked through heavy rain and slippery forest paths for four hours Tuesday before reaching the Boeing 737's wreckage in a rugged area inaccessible by helicopter or car, said Setyo Raharjo, head of the National Commission on Transportation Safety.
"Ninety bodies were found at the scene," he told reporters, adding that "the search for 12 others is ongoing."
Earlier Tuesday, an Adam Air spokesman said a dozen people survived the crash, but Indonesian authorities said they could not verify the report.
"I hope the people are alive, but so far there is no clear information about that," said national aviation chief Ichsan Tatang.
The accident followed weeks of seasonal rains and high winds in Indonesia that have caused deadly floods, landslides and maritime accidents - including the sinking of a ferry in the Java Sea late Friday that killed or left missing about 400 people.
Three of the 102 on board the plane were American citizens, the U.S. Embassy said, though it was not clear if they were among the dead. Raharjo said a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board team would arrive in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Friday to help with the investigation.
There were no other known foreigners on board.
Hundreds of people gathered at Manado airport, the aircraft's destination. Some collapsed when they learned about the high death toll, while others angrily banged on the door of the Adam Air office there, demanding information, witnesses said.
Justin Tumurang's twin sister was on the plane.
"Being a twin, we share almost every feeling. I felt something was not right, and it grew worse. Now I feel pain," she said.
Adam Air is one of at least a dozen budget carriers that have emerged in the country since 1999, when the industry was deregulated. The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights to scores of destinations around the sprawling nation, but has raised some safety concerns, since maintenance on the leased planes is reportedly poor.
Tatang said the plane involved in Monday's disaster was 17 years old, had flown 45,371 hours and passed its last inspection on Dec. 25.
"Everything was in order, the condition of the plane was good," he said, adding it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash though it went down in severe weather.
Last year, an Adam Air jetliner lost all communication and navigation systems for four hours during a flight between Jakarta and Makassar on Sulawesi Island, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing at a small provincial airport.
A day later, the plane flew to a regional airport with proper maintenance facilities without being given the go-ahead by aviation authorities, a major violation of national and international safety rules.
In September 2005, a Mandala Airlines Boeing 737 crashed after takeoff on Sumatra, killing 143 people.
In September 1997, a Garuda Airlines Airbus crashed into a jungle-covered mountain slope in Sumatra, killing all 234 people aboard. Two months later, a Silk Air Boeing 737 jet crashed into a river on Sumatra, killing 104 people.
Adam Air, which began operations in 2003, was founded by Agung Laksono, the speaker of Indonesia's house of representatives and the company's chairman.
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