By ANDI JATMIKO, Associated Press
MOUNT SALAK, Indonesia (AP) — Clearer weather finally allowed Indonesian helicopters to land Saturday and retrieve some remains of the 45 people aboard a Russian-made plane that crashed into a volcano during a demonstration flight.
Investigators still have found no sign of the black box recorder that might explain why the new Sukhoi Superjet-100 slammed into Mount Salak about halfway through a 50-minute flight intended to woo potential Indonesian airline buyers on Wednesday.
Relatives of the victims burst into tears as they watched men unload 10 black body bags from a military helicopter at a Jakarta airbase.
Search teams who climbed the dormant volcano's near-vertical slopes have been struggling to retrieve remains of the victims, and helicopters were unable to land because of thick fog shrouding the mountain about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Jakarta, the capital. All those aboard the flight are now presumed dead, and the plane's shredded wreckage is scattered around the dense jungle.
The teams including 15 professional climbers, have altogether filled 16 body bags with the remains they have found and on Saturday continued to search along the steep cliffs and in a nearby ravine near the wreckage, search and rescue agency spokesman Gagah Prakoso said.
"We also have deployed a team to find the black box, but so far it had yet found," Prakoso said.
Col. Anton Chastila, a police forensic doctor in Jakarta, said his team has received the remains, adding it was unclear how many victims they represent because none of the bodies were intact.
About 60 forensic experts will sort through the body parts piece by piece and take DNA samples to identify them, Chastila said.
Wednesday's demonstration flight was mostly carrying representatives from Indonesian airlines, which are rapidly expanding to serve a burgeoning middle class in the sprawling archipelago where air travel between islands is a quicker alternative to ferries.
All but 10 of the 45 people on board the plane Wednesday were potential Indonesian buyers and journalists, said Sunaryo from PT Trimarga Rekatama, the company that helped organize the event.
The others were Russians, all from Sukhoi companies, an American consultant with a local airline and a Frenchman with aircraft engine-maker Snecma.
The American was identified as Peter Adler, 53, of Oakley, California, an aviation enthusiast who collected and delivered planes for corporate customers and ensured the aircraft were technically sound, Adler's wife Randi told the Contra Costa Times newspaper.
Just 21 minutes after takeoff from a Jakarta airfield, the Russian pilot and co-pilot asked for permission to drop from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet (3,000 meters to 1,800 meters). They gave no explanation, disappearing from the radar immediately afterward.
It was not clear why the crew asked to shift course, especially since they were so close to the 7,000-foot (2,200-meter) volcano, officials have said.
The Superjet is Russia's first new model of passenger jet since the fall of the Soviet Union two decades ago and was intended to help resurrect its aerospace industry.
Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini in Jakarta and Sudhin S. Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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