Indonesia plane crash kills Spanish pilot

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A small plane crashed into a mountain after an aborted landing attempt in Indonesia's remote Papua region on Wednesday, killing the Spanish co-pilot and critically injuring the New Zealand pilot, local rescue officials said.

The pilot aborted the landing after spotting a villager who had wandered onto the airstrip in Paniai district, local search and rescue chief Sumpeno Yuwono told AFP.

After flying away the Susi Air's Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft crashed into a mountain some seven miles (11 kilometres) away.

"Just as the aircraft was coming in to land the pilot spotted a villager walking on the runway. He decided to abort the landing and fly away again, but he failed and the plane hit a mountain seven miles away," he said.

"The New Zealand pilot has been rescued to a hospital in Timika town and the body of the Spanish co-pilot was sent to a nearby airport."

Like most airstrips in the remote area, the Paniai runway is unprotected by a fence. Locals cut through it to take shortcuts and children sometimes use the area to play football, he said.

The plane, coming in from neighbouring Nabire, was flying food supplies to remote villages in the district, other rescue officials said.

The sprawling Indonesian archipelago relies heavily on air transport and has a poor aviation safety record. Turbulent weather conditions in Papua have caused several accidents in recent years.

In September an Australian and a Slovak pilot were killed when their Grand Caravan, owned by the same company, went down in a remote area of Papua province.

Another small aircraft, also transporting supplies to remote villages for a Christian organisation in Papua, crashed the same month, killing its American pilot and two passengers.

© 2011 AFP

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