Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA) - A joint search and rescue (SAR) team located a Bell 212 helicopter flying at 4,700 meters above sea level in Paniai District, Papua, on Friday, though its three crew members had yet to be evacuated.

"SAR personnel are not yet able to evacuate the three crew members of the helicopter along with food supplies onboard," Head of the SAR Agency in Biak Gusti Anwar Mulyadi notified ANTARA that contacted him from Jayapura, the capital of Papua Province, on Friday.

Mulyadi spoke of having visited Nabire District to lead an operation to rescue and evacuate the helicopter’s pilot Captain Endy Nawalaga, co-pilot Captain Erik Kurniawan, and a crew member, M. Aswar Jamal.

"We are currently preparing all necessary gear required for the evacuation mission. We are also awaiting the arrival of a helicopter to transport us to the rescue location," Mulyadi noted, adding that the SAR personnel, who conducted an aerial observation, spotted two crew members waving their hands.

The helicopter, owned by PT National Utility Helicopters (NUH), was piloted by Captain Endy Nawalaga. It took off from Nabire District to Baya Biru in Paniai District on Thursday (Sept 17) at 10:47 a.m. local time, but it reportedly 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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Translator: Evarukdijati, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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