At least 72 killed in military plane crash in Medan

At least 72 people were killed Tuesday after an Air Force Hercules C-130 plane crashed in Medan and burst into flames, hospital staff and officials said.

Air Force chief Air Marshal Agus Supriatna said there were no survivors after the plane ploughed into houses and commercial buildings in Medan, North Sumatera.

The plane left Jakarta with 113 people aboard, including military personnel and their relatives, but it was not clear how many continued the journey to Medan after stopovers in Pekanbaru and Dumai, Agus said.

It was bound for Tanjung Pinang on Bintan island to drop supplies when it crashed, he said.

Medan’s Adam Malik hospital spokeswoman Sairi Saragih said 72 bodies had been brought in.

Earlier officials said the plane was carrying about 50 passengers and 12 crew members at the time of the accident.

The plane crashed two minutes after takeoff and the pilot made a request to return to base moments before it went down, Air Force chief Agus said.

“There must have been problems and the pilot was trying to return,” he said.

Agus said the crashed plane was 51 years old but insisted that an aircraft’s age did not matter as long as it was well maintained.

But he said all B-model C-130s, which were produced in the early 1960s, would be grounded pending an investigation into the crash.

Television footage showed part of a shophouse and at least one car destroyed, with smoke seen billowing into the air.

The military released the names of 12 crew members, but not other people on the plane.

“Five members of my family were on the plane,” a man identified as Jansen told Metro TV, sobbing.

“I appeal to authorities to keep us informed about the fate of our families,” he said.

Zani Nasution, a resident, said he saw the plane wobbling before it crashed and sparked balls of fire.

“There was a loud explosion,” he told the broadcaster.

The crash has again put a spotlight on Indonesia’s poor aviation safety record and aging military hardware.

President Joko Widodo said the government would audit military equipment to ensure safety.

“This and previous accidents are all the more reason we must modernise our military equipment,” Joko told reporters.

The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI)  operates 28 Lockheed C-130 cargo aircraft.

At least 98 people were killed in 2009 when a C-130 plane crashed in Magetan in East Java province. Fifteen people survived that accident.

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