Three airplane seats found 2 km from crash site

CRASH OF FLIGHT MI 185

Search and recovery workers yesterday found three aircraft seats in a mangrove swamp 2 km west of the Musi River, site of last Friday’s SilkAir crash.

Searchers found more mangled wreckage, including engine parts, and human remains which included a hand.

Underwater search operations located a crater 60 m by 25 m, which is believed to contain more wreckage.

Brigadier-General Ryan Izard of the South Sumatra Military command, who is overseeing the Indonesian air, land and sea operations, said that the wreckage, spread over a 12 km by 8 km radius of the crash site, lent credence to speculation that the plane might have been veering towards Palembang when the crash occurred.

“The pilot probably sensed there was something wrong with the plane, and moved in a different direction,” he said.

“The pattern of the wreckage seems to point in this direction.”

Military searchers, helped by villagers, combed the river banks yesterday. Lieutenant- Colonel Yusnur Affandi of the Indonesian military command post overseeing land operation said that many villagers had found plane parts and personal items of passengers and turned them in.

“They were just too scared initially to tell us they found things from the crash,” he said.

Meanwhile, two cranes taken to the crash site when investigators thought they had located the main section of the aircraft were removed yesterday.

This caused speculation that searchers were no longer hopeful of finding large pieces of wreckage underwater.

But some investigators still believe that the main body of the aircraft remains in the river bed.

If it is found, the cranes could be brought back, or cranes from the Singapore or Indonesian ships involved in the search operations can be used.

Identification

Families of the Flight 185 passengers are being interviewed by American forensic experts for clues that may help in identification of body parts found at the site.

The 18 experts from Houston-based Kenyon International Emergency Services, have been brought in by SilkAir.

Family members have been asked for detailed descriptions of the passengers’ physical characteristics – height, weight, race, eye and hair colour.

They also wanted to know who had a moustache, scars, tattoos or pierced ears and asked about personal effects.

Kenyon also hopes to obtain dental records. All data compiled from the relatives will be kept at Palembang Airport warehouse where all the remains are being kept in refrigerated containers.

Kenyon chief executive officer Michael Spinello said the details may help in identifying the remains.

“If we find a piece of torso and it has a tattoo, then we’ll know which passengers had such characteristics,” he said, adding that DNA testing may be used as a last resort.

Kenyon, founded in 1929, has been involved in assisting officials worldwide to help identify dead victims of air crashes. It has been involved in more than 220 crashes, and identifying the remains can sometimes take more than a year.

Describing the condition of the various body parts found, he said: “They were highly decomposed as a result of being submerged underwater for such a long period of time.”

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