Mass burial for crash victims

Mass burial for crash victims

Ridwan Max Sijabat and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

A forensic team at the Adam Malik General Hospital in Medan has been working around the clock to try to identify badly charred bodies of Mandala aircraft crash victims, with the government planning to conduct a mass burial for unidentified bodies on Wednesday.

Experts from the National Transportation Safety Committee began investigations on Tuesday, looking for clues from burned wreckage at the crash site to help determine what caused the Mandala Airlines Indonesia Boeing 737-200 airliner to fail at takeoff.

The aircraft slammed into a heavily populated area near the Polonia Airport in Medan on Monday, killing 103 on board, and 47 on the ground. Fourteen passengers survived the country’s worst plane crash in eight years, including a two-year old baby who was sitting on her mother’s lap.

Head of the forensic team Guntur Bumi said that until Tuesday afternoon, only 73 bodies had been identified. These included the bodies of North Sumatra governor Tengku Rizal Nurdin and his predecessor Raja Inal Siregar, as well as the five crew members.

“The identified bodies have already been handed over to their relatives. Of the 73 identified bodies, 39 are passengers, four are crew members and the rest were residents killed in the accident,” he said, adding that identification work had been tough as many of the victims had been charred beyond recognition.

Sukri, a forensic professor at the Airlangga University medical school in Surabaya, East Java, said that the forensic team conducted the identification procedure by examining the victims’ fingerprints and dental records to ensure their ante-mortem data was the same as their postmortem data.

North Sumatra provincial administration spokesman Edi Sofyan said that the forensic experts were given until 11 a.m. on Wednesday to finish the identification work, as unidentified bodies would be buried in a mass grave. This grave would be located near the mass burial site for the 1997 Garuda air crash victims, which killed more than 200.

“Unidentified bodies will be buried en masse at around 2 p.m.,” he said.

Islamic religious custom calls for quick burial of the dead.

Medan, the country’s third largest city which has become a hub for the flow of tsunami aid to Aceh, was in mourning on Tuesday with residents flying national flags at half mast.

A somber President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono flew to Medan on Tuesday where he visited the wreckage-strewn site on Jl. Djamin Ginting as hundreds of people thronged about to get a glimpse of him.

He also presided over the funeral ceremony for North Sumatra governor Tengku Rizal Nurdin and visited the Adam Malik Hospital.

Meanwhile, a member of the National Transportation Safety Committee Rita Wijaya said that the recovered black boxes which included the flight recorder and cockpit voice recorder would be sent to the U.S., Australia or Taiwan for analysis.

Meanwhile, the engines would be taken to Jakarta to determine if the crash was caused by engine failure.

But committee chairman Setyo Rahardjo said that it could take up to a year for a conclusion to be drawn, promising that it would unveil the report to the public.

The ill-fated aircraft was manufactured in 1981, but was claimed by Mandala to be airworthy until 2016.

Survivors said the plane started to shake heavily seconds after takeoff, and failed to clear landing systems at the end of the runway. The aircraft clipped a river bank, swerved right and burst into flames as it ploughed into homes on one of the city’s busiest roads.

Courtesy: the Jakarta Post

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