By NINIEK KARMINI, Associated Press Writer
JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Indonesian military plane carrying more than 100 people crashed into several homes and burst into flames Wednesday, killing at least 79 people, officials said.
Dozens were injured and more were feared dead, with local television flashing footage of fire engulfing the mangled wreckage. Black smoke billowed in the air, as soldiers carried badly burnt bodies on stretchers to waiting ambulances.
Air force spokesman Bambang Sulistyo said at least 79 people were killed when the crashed near a base in East Java province early Wednesday. There were 112 passengers and crew on board.
Military spokesman Sagom Tamboen said the aircraft was transporting troops and their families, including at least 10 children, when it tumbled from the sky near an air force base in East Java province.
It smashed into a row of houses in Geplak village, killing three on the ground, before skidding into a rice field.
The tail of the plane and several large parts of its charred body were scattered in the paddy and nearby bushes.
It was not clear what caused the crash, the latest in a string to hit the air force.
But several witnesses described hearing a large explosion while it was still in the air and then seeing it split apart.
“One of the wings fell off,” Agus Yulianto, a villager, was quoted as saying on the Web site of Kompas newspaper. “Then the plane nose-dived into the houses.”
The accident occurred 325 miles (520 kilometers) east of the capital, Jakarta.
The country’s air force has long complained of being underfunded and handicapped by a recently lifted U.S. ban on weapons sales. It has suffered a series of accidents, including aplane that crashed into an airport hangar last month, killing all 24 onboard.
A series of commercial airline crashes in recent years has killed more than 120 people in Indonesia.