Answers Sought in E. Java Plane Crash That Killed 98

MAGETAN ~ Air investigators sifted through the charred debris of a military transport plane on Thursday that crashed into homes before bursting into flames, killing 98 people.

Investigators were trying to work out why the Hercules, carrying more than 100 crew and passengers, including soldiers and their families, came down in East Java province on Wednesday morning.

Officials said at least 98 people were killed in the crash, which completely burnt out much of the plane and left chunks of fuselage strewn across a rice paddy near Magetan city.

The plane was flying from capital Jakarta to eastern Papua province via Magetan.

An air marshal – the air force’s equivalent to a general – and his wife were among those killed in the crash.

The exact number of survivors was unclear.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims but said it was too early to point to a cause for the crash.

“The reasons for the accident are still in the process of investigation. We can’t say if it was weather factors, engine damage or human error. It’s better we don’t speculate as to the cause of the accident,” he said.

The crash is the second accident involving a Hercules in two weeks. Another of the transport planes skidded off the runway in the Papuan highland town of Wamena on May 10, reportedly injuring one person.

Twenty-four military personnel were also killed early last month when their Fokker 27 training plane slammed into a hangar and burst into flames at an air base in West Java.

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