Police Detain Garuda Pilot over Fatal Crash

JAKARTA ~ A pilot who reportedly ignored more than a dozen warnings not to land before his plane burst into flames killing 21 people has been detained as a suspect in the crash, police said on Tuesday.

The Garuda Indonesia Boeing-737 carrying 140 passengers landed in the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta on March 7 last year, but careered into rice paddies before going on fire.

A final report into the accident issued by Indonesia’s National Transport Safety Committee (KNKT) in November said that pilot Marwoto Komar ignored 15 automatic warnings not to land.

“He was taken into detention yesterday (Monday) evening following questioning,” said Narti, from Yogyakarta police’s public relations office.

Narti said that Komar had been questioned for around 10 hours at the province’s police headquarters.

Komar had been under police surveillance while undergoing treatment for psychological problems and had earlier been questioned as a witness. His pilot’s license has been suspended.

Meanwhile, dozens of members of the Indonesian Pilots’ Association met with a national parliamentary commission overseeing transportation affairs to demand Komar’s release.

“We reject the criminalization of this case,” said Stephanus, a member of the association who also heads Garuda’s pilot association.

Stephanus said that only members of the profession, and not police, had the right to decide whether professional mistakes were made by a pilot.

Stephanus said that the KNKT investigation had failed to explain why the plane was moving so quickly when it landed.

“What the KNKT has done so far is explain what took place, but not why it took place. We demand that the KNKT investigate further to explain why,” he said.

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