Image: Indonesian plane crash wreckage
AFP - Getty Images
Indonesian search and rescue personnel inspect the smoldering wreckage of a Mandala Airlines jet that crashed Monday in a neighborhood in Medan, near Jakarta.
updated 9/7/2005 5:28:12 AM ET 2005-09-07T09:28:12

The parents of a 5-year-old who had been given up for dead after the crash of an Indonesian airliner were quietly celebrating Wednesday after the boy was found alive in a hospital.

Only 16 of the 117 people aboard Monday’s flight survived, including 5-year-old Pento, who’s name was originally on an official list of the dead; 148 people died in the accident, including 47 killed on the ground.

Pento’s mother Maulina never gave up hope, going from hospital to hospital in search of her son. She found him 13 hours after the plane went down in a fiery ball. “I feel very lucky,” she said.

“It’s a miracle,” said Pento’s father, Tagor Pandjaitan, who was traveling to Jakarta with Pento when the Boeing 737-200 started shaking violently seconds after takeoff and burst into flames. “I was sure he was dead.”

Possible fan blade failure
Unidentified victims — burned beyond recognition — were laid to rest in a mass burial Wednesday, as a preliminary investigation pointed to possible fan blade failure on one of the plane’s engines.

Transport Minister Hatta Rajasa said it would be several weeks before experts knew why the Mandala Airlines plane crashed in the city of Medan, creating a path of destruction as it plowed into houses, cars, and pedestrians.

But Setyo Rahardjo, head of the National Transport Safety Committee, indicated that one of the engine’s fan blades may have been damaged. Fan blades are used to compress air that helps thrust the aircraft forward.

“We need to investigate it further. We don’t know yet if that happened before or after impact,” he said as investigators sifted through the jetliner’s charred wreckage. Both flight data recorders have been found and are being sent abroad for analysis.

Hundreds of family members have spent the last two days at the Adam Malik Hospital morgue, looking for loved ones among a long row of charred bodies. Some women collapsed as they lifted the plastic yellow sheets in search of clues — a piece of clothing, jewelry, a familiar pair of shoes.

Many remain identified
But by Wednesday afternoon the remains of 33 people had not been identified.

They were placed in coffins and loaded onto military trucks for burial 100 yards from the Medan airport’s runway — very close to another mass grave holding the remains of victims of a Garuda Indonesia plane crash that killed more than 200 in 1997.

Mourners threw flowers into the grave. Then, bulldozers heaped mounds of dirt on the coffins.

Among those who attended the ceremony was Mandala’s acting president, Maj. Gen. Hasril Hamzah Tanjung.

“This accident was the will of God,” he said as he expressed his condolences to relatives of the dead. “For that reason, we hope the families will be given the fortitude to face it.”

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