December 25, 1997 in Nation/World

Singapore Jet Torn Apart On Impact, Say Investigators

Ali Kotarumalos Associated Press
 

Wreckage from a Singapore-owned jet indicates that it disintegrated when it plunged into a river last week, Indonesia’s top aviation investigator said Wednesday.

All 104 passengers and crew were killed when the plane crashed during a flight from Jakarta to Singapore on Friday.

“It appears that when the aircraft hit the water, a total disintegration took place,” investigator Oetoyo Diran told reporters.

Villagers living near the crash site said they heard at least one or two explosions before impact, but Diran said the parts recovered so far did not indicate any sign of a blast.

Divers, working in zero visibility and guided by sonar readings, have retrieved only small pieces of the SilkAir Boeing 737-300 from the murky waters of the Musi River on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Apart from the corpse of a small child, no intact bodies have been recovered. Most human remains have not been identified.

On Wednesday, an Indonesian navy minesweeper with sonar equipment joined four navy ships already moored over the crash site.

Indonesian, Singapore and U.S. aviation officials and experts from Boeing have been examining wreckage in the nearby city of Palembang. The investigation is likely to last months.

Singapore authorities have downplayed the likelihood of a maintenance problem, and Indonesian officials have rejected the possibility of sabotage.

SilkAir said Wednesday that most of the pieces so far were from the plane’s tail section. Parts of an engine, parts of a tire, parts of a wing, a seat belt, parts of a cushion and bits of fuselage also have been recovered.

Searchers are still looking for the plane’s “black box” flight data and voice recorders.

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