By Levi Cunding
A plane that crashed in eastern Indonesia has been found "completely destroyed" with the bodies of all 54 people on board strewn amid the wreckage.
Rescuers finally reached the debris of the Trigana Air plane, which went down on Sunday (local time) in Papua province during a short flight in bad weather, after abandoning search efforts a day earlier because of the mountainous terrain, thick fog and rain.
The black box flight data recorders, which could provide clues about the cause of the crash, were retrieved. Money, some of it burnt, was also found among the wreckage of the plane, which had been transporting 6.5 billion rupiah (NZ$716,000) in cash.
"The plane has crashed, it is completely destroyed," Bambang Soelistyo, head of the country's search and rescue agency, said of the ATR 42-300 plane after teams reached the jungle site in the morning.
"Everything was in pieces and part of the plane is burnt."
Photos of the site showed a fire-blackened clearing in thick jungle strewn with debris. The twin-turboprop plane was carrying 54 people – 49 passengers and five crew – and officials said all the bodies had been found.
The team of about 100 rescuers, including soldiers and police, who reached the crash site found some bodies were not intact while others were badly burnt.
The harsh conditions meant authorities were planning to lift the bodies from the site by helicopter, the search and rescue agency said.
Efforts to retrieve the dead were suspended on Tuesday afternoon because of thick fog with none of the bodies yet recovered, Soelistyo told reporters in Jayapura, Papua's capital. A fresh attempt would be made Wednesday.
The money on the plane, which was being carried in four bags by postal officials, was government social assistance funds to be distributed to poor families in the remote community of Oksibil where the plane had been heading.
Soelistyo did not say how much money had been found. He said he had instructed the rescuers to hand all items recovered, including the money, to the authorities.
The plane had set off from Jayapura on what was supposed to be a 45-minute flight to Oksibil.
But it lost contact with air traffic control about 10 minutes before reaching its destination, soon after the crew requested permission to start descending in heavy cloud and rain to land.
Captain Beni Sumaryanto, Trigana Air's service director of operations, said "unpredictable weather and mountainous terrain" had likely caused the accident, adding that the plane was in good condition and the pilot experienced.