The SAR team members aboard the helicopter had reportedly located the missing helicopter during their aerial observation, Nabire Police Chief Adjunct Sen. Coms. Sonny Tampubolon informed ANTARA on being contacted from Jayapura, the capital of Papua Province, on Friday.
The ill-fated helicopter, with food supplies onboard, might have made an emergency landing in the Paniai District area, Tampubolon stated.
Head of the Search and Rescue (SAR) Agency in Biak Gusti Anwar Mulyadi had earlier stated that a search operation to locate the missing helicopter was continued on Friday morning.
The sweeping aerial operation involved two helicopters, dispatched from Enarotali, the capital of Paniai District, and Timika, the capital of Mimika District, he noted, adding that the signals broadcast from the emergency locator transmitter (ELT), carried aboard the ill-fated helicopter, could not as yet be detected.
The helicopter, owned by PT National Utility Helicopters (NUH), was piloted by Captain Endy Nawalaga. He was assisted by Co-pilot Captain Erik Kurniawan and a crew member named M. Aswar Jamal.
The helicopter, carrying food supplies, took off from Nabire District to Baya Biru in Paniai District on Thursday (Sept 17) at 10:47 a.m. local time, but it was declared to have lost contact at 1:30 p.m. local time.
On Thursday afternoon, a Smart Air aircraft attempted to trace the missing helicopter’s flight route, but it failed to locate it.
Mulyadi spoke of yet being unaware of the causes behind this air accident, though his team members would focus their search operation in Baya Biru's adjoining areas where overcast weather conditions prevailed on Friday morning.
On numerous occasions over the past few years, Papua Province has borne witness to air accidents.
On Sept 18, 2019, a Twin Otter aircraft, carrying State Logistics Agency's (Bulog's) rice packages, went missing en route from the Moses Kilangain Airport in Timika, Mimika District, to Ilaga, the capital city of Puncak District, Papua Province.
However, an intensive search operation, conducted for several days, resulted in the discovery of this Twin Otter aircraft.
On June 28, 2019, the Indonesian Army's MI-17 helicopter also went missing after taking off from Oksibil, Pegunungan Bintang District, Papua Province.
Factors, including erratic weather conditions and difficulties on the ground owing to inaccessibility to roads, hindered the search operation to locate the helicopter.
Consequently, search efforts were conducted through sweeping aerial operations.
The MI-17 helicopter, bearing registration number HA-5138 and carrying 12 passengers and crew members on board, had earlier flown to Okbibab to deliver logistics to soldiers serving in the area.
The wreckage from this helicopter crash was finally discovered on one of the slopes of Mandala's mountainous area in Oksop Sub-district, Pegunungan Bintang District, Papua Province, on Feb 10, 2020.
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