Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - A rescue team found the remains of passengers of the ill-fated Sukhoi Superjet 100 near its crash site at Mt. Salak in Bogor, West Java, on Friday morning, which will be sent to the Dr. Sukanto National Police Hospital in East Jakarta for further identification yesterday.
National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) chief Vice Marshal Daryatmo said that the team, which comprises Basarnas members, the Indonesian Military and the police, were preparing two makeshift helipads near the crash site to enable swift retrieval. He said the bodies were expected to arrive in Jakarta at 8 a.m.
"The team managed to retrieve human remains that we believe to have come from 12 bodies. All have been confirmed dead," Daryatmo said at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport, which was still crowded with relatives of the plane passengers. "We have not found any survivors."
Relatives broke down upon hearing the news, but gradually left the airport arrival hall, with the authorities advising that all information related to the identity of the victims would be released at the hospital. Those who decided to stay continued to cry while watching updates on the tragedy from the big screen.
Basarnas spokesman Gagah Prakoso said that the team had prepared the remains. "All the remains have been taken up to the hill, some have also been taken to the post. And tomorrow, with hopefully the weather on our side, we will start taking away the rest, and then fly them to Halim."
Six autopsy teams and a group of nine doctors were readied at the hospital, said the National Police health and medicine division chief Sr. Comr. Anton Castali.
"The autopsies may take up a month to complete. It is with a heavy heart that I ask family members of the victims to be patient," he said.
Anton said an intact body, or one that had identifying marks, would be immediately handed over to family members without any need for post-mortem DNA examinations, while those without any means of identification would have to undergo a DNA test.
The ill-fated Russian plane disappeared from radar on Wednesday with 45 people onboard, including Indonesian businessmen and journalists and 10 foreign nationals - eight Russian flight crew and technicians, a US citizen and a French citizen. The rescue team spotted the crash site on Thursday, but only started the evacuation process on Friday due to fog and difficult terrain.
A total of 1,540 people joined the search and rescue team, including residents of Mt. Salak and nature groups. They performed sweeps of the crash site in smaller groups.
"I climbed to 1,800 meters [up Mt. Salak], but I had to return to the command post because I ran out of logistics. Our team comprised of 72 people, but only 52 could continue the hike," said one of the rescue team members, Asep Itong.
Surya Kencana Regional Military Command overseeing Bogor, Sukabumi and Cianjur chief Col. AM Putranto, said that the joint team would continue the search with two tracker dogs.
Two reporters embedded in the rescue team were reported missing and were yet to be found, after they became separated from the group in order to find water in the valley.
Sukhoi's Indonesian partner, PT Trimarga Rekatama, said that Sukhoi would give US$50,000 to each family of the victims as compensation once the identification process was complete.
A Transportation Ministry regulation, however, stipulates that a carrier has to pay Rp 1.25 billion ($135,900) to relatives of dead victims.
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