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SilkAir Boeing 737 Carrying at Least 104 People Crashes in Indonesia; Officials Fear All on

December 19, 1997

SilkAir Boeing 737 Carrying at Least 104 People Crashes in Indonesia; Officials Fear All on Board Were KilledBy GEOFF SPENCER

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A Singapore-owned SilkAir Boeing 737 carrying at least 104 people crashed on the Indonesian island of Sumatra today. All aboard were feared dead.

SilkAir said the plane went down 35 miles north of Palembang on Sumatra, midway between Jakarta and Singapore. The jet was carrying seven crew members and 97 passengers, the airline said.

However, the head of Indonesian air transportation, Zainuddin Sikado, was quoted by the official Antara news agency as saying there were 106 people aboard, including nine crew members.

A search-and-rescue team was at the scene. The state-owned TVRI network said a soldier found several passports in the wreckage, including one belonging to an American and another to a Malaysian.

Channel 5 television in Singapore said the passengers included mostly Singaporeans and Indonesians, but there reportedly also are Australians, Americans, Japanese and Europeans on board.

Flight MI-185 left Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta Airport at 3:23 p.m., and was scheduled to land at 6 p.m. in Singapore, the airline said in a statement.

The airline said Indonesian air traffic control lost contact with the plane, and Antara quoted sources as saying the aircraft went down at about 4 p.m. Jakarta time (4 a.m. EST). Palembang is 280 miles northwest of Jakarta.

It was feared that some of the plane may have gone down in the sea, an Indonesian search and rescue official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The airline said the plane, a Boeing 737-100, was 10 months old and the newest aircraft in its fleet.

Boeing, the airplane maker, is assembling a team to help with the investigation, company spokeswoman Susan Bradley said today.

It is the second major commercial jetliner crash on Sumatra in three months.

On Sept. 26, an Indonesian-owned Garuda Airbus A-300 crashed into a jungle slope and exploded, killing all 234 crew and passengers aboard as it approached the city of Medan in north Sumatra.

An investigation into that crash is continuing. Reports indicated there was confusion between the pilot and an air traffic controller. Poor visibility from a smoky haze covering Southeast Asia also may have been a factor. The haze has since dissipated.

SilkAir was formed in 1975 as the holiday operator arm of Singapore Airlines. It was originally called Tradewinds and changed names in 1992 to SilkAir. It flies to 21 destinations in Asia.

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