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The hunt for Adam Air flight 574 YOGYAKARTA - It was a fairly normal beginning of the new year, for as far the first day of the year can be a normal one. The sun was shining here and the weather looked good for the day. Maybe a little bit strange, since we are in the middle of the wet season here so in fact we have to expect a lot of rain almost every single day now. The weather is slightly strange since there is really bad weather of the Java Sea. From Southern Sumatra until as far east at the Moluccan Spice Islands the weather is bad; very high waves, strong winds and a lot of rain are pounding the area. At first you think that that is not a big deal there out at sea, at least there will be no victims in flash floods, landslides and other misery that comes with the wet season in Indonesia.

Shortly before the new year started, a ferry went down just about north of the seaport Semarang. It was en route from Southern Kalimantan to exactly this seaport, but it would never make it there. If it had been nice weather, they probably already had land in sight, but the weather wasn't fair and the boat sunk while hundreds aboard tries to rescue themselves and their relatives. Dozens of them have been rescued from the waves of the Java Sea, others found the shore themselves, dead that is. At this moment, victims - dead and alive - are searched for as far east as Bali, several hundred kilometers away. Because the warm seawater and the main currents people were found clinging to a drilling island north of Madura. That's already some distance to the east and now even beyond that point.


While rescue missions for the victims of the sunken ferry hadn't really started yet - the sea was too dangerous, messages of the sunken ferry only made it in the news barely - later that first day of the new year, at Magrib (sunset), it was announced that they were now looking for a plane as well. 'In about the same area as where the ferry sunk'. Well, the Java Sea is not a little lake or something, so that was a pretty useless statement. Not a single person could suspect in what kind of drama this would end. The plane that left Juanda airport near Surabaya that afternoon was supposed to land at Manado - the airport not the city however that does occur as well sometimes - about two hours later. The plane took off, but putting it down on the landing strip in North Sulawesi did not yet happen until that day late in the afternoon.

At that moment the plane was simply missing. There wasn't much information released from Adam Air. They already were experienced in these kinds of things. More than one time a plane skidded of the runway, had technical problems at departure, arrival or in the air. This was all in the margin of dramatic. Even a plane that lands of course several hundred kilometers is still within limits. These kind of incidents are easy to cover up when a camera of an Indonesian TV-station pops up. No, the passengers didn't have to worry about anything, because eventually they landed safely at their destination and the plane was repaired directly. Everything okay? Yes, then everything is okay, but that's not the end. The plane had been missing officially and publicly known for more than two hours around eight in the evening in Java, nine in Sulawesi. It's about time to set up a search mission and not only the people at Adam Air think so. Rescue teams are prepared, just in case.

The hunt for Adam Air flight 574 continues on Sulawesi soil as well. Hundreds of rescue workers search for the remains of the lost plane together with the Indonesian army.
The hunt for Adam Air flight 574 continues on Sulawesi soil as well. Hundreds of rescue workers search for the remains of the lost plane together with the Indonesian army.

Airports 'in the neighborhood' were called with the question if there was a bright orange thing on their tarmac, possibly with all tires in tact and passengers in their seats. That brought a negative answer everywhere, so the plane was still officially missing. Since hours started to count it got more difficult to explain that a plane that was supposed to be airborne for about two hours had been lost for over ten somewhere over Sulawesi, as was assumed. The plane wasn't missing for nothing, at this moment no one could tell anything about it. Slowly the night grew darker. Searching for something that no one knew where it was at that moment was crazy at this time. It was raining as well, no, just wait until the next day of course. Most likely it will be dry again, at least it will be light then. That makes it more easy to search for a Boeing 737-400.


One day later, it had become day and searching was possible, other news came out. Earlier efforts to contact the plane had failed and most likely that was not going to be possible again anymore. Other airports still didn't report the big bird with it's remarkable color and 102 passengers and crew inside. Time to search outside the airports. In other words that means that they are in fact looking for a crash-site with most likely orange-colored debris of an plane. In this state the plane should be pretty easy to find. Most likely the passengers aboard didn't survive it. That makes this a very sad accident, but that makes it much more easy to look for the 102 aboard since they are probably located close to the crash-site.

In the afternoon of the second day of 2007, about one full day after the plane had left Juanda airport, word was spread that the wreckage had been found north of Makassar in mountainous area which was hard to access. That was bad news but in fact it was not that bad after being missing for 24 hours. Twelve of the passengers were said to have survived the ordeal. That almost looked like divine intervention. You are in a missing plane which is found to have crashed and you simply survive the drama. If you should be happy with that is another story, because you will always bring it along with you, unless you were one of the babies aboard. The media likes to name that part every time they have the chance while a baby is a passenger as well, which can also become victim.

Excited all kind of representatives from local government, police, government and Adam Air showed up. With some pride they reported that the plane had been found and that there were survivors as well. That's the end of the story, because a missing plane with 102 people aboard that stayed missing was not good at all of course. Imagine that you have to search for it for days. It was much better to just write off that piece of old junk, to keep the family and relatives away from the press and to start a new marketing campaign to look for new passengers with attractive rates. Now it was just bringing in the dead, injured to the hospital, clear the crash site or leave it as it is of course and than quickly wrapping up your stuff and head for your bed as 24 hours without sleep is more than enough.


At the time the representatives were busy sleeping, not too late in the evening of the second of January, suddenly another message came out. The entire story was cancelled. No new marketing campaigns, quick write off, no injured, no victims ... even worse ... no plane as well. The media itself reported that they themselves didn't report the entire truth. The plane that was found earlier in the mountains north of Makassar was not found yet. There wasn't a plane there at al, amazed villagers told the press and the rescue workers that arrived there. Fortunately they reported the fact that they didn't see or hear anything instead of being Indonesian and watch the entire film play in front of their eyes. Only then people realized something had gone terribly wrong. How, what and were was not known.

Rescue workers and press which flooded the village were astonished when they heard these new facts. For them there was nothing else left than to return to their base, waiting for new news to arrive. Many of them headed to the Adam Air office in Makassar, which had gained the status of having the most filmed windows and doors compared to any other office in Indonesia. They didn't know about the newly missing plane here as well, most of them were just getting some sleep from their earlier adventure.

For those who think that maybe someone found another plane wreck on an old satellite image, they are wrong too. There was nothing to see at the given coordinates. Even Changi airport in Singapore supplied these coordinates as being the most probable location of the missing plane. Even they were wrong because the plane simply wasn't there, neither was a black box or a passenger. Nothing at all, which was most likely the biggest disappointment for the Indonesian press, which usually loves people in distress, blood and death. That was a bummer for them.

Directly after the appearance of the message that the retrieved plane had gone missing once again - even that thing is as big as what, finding simply seems impossible - everywhere in the country people woke up. A big search and rescue operation was to be started immediately. That is what happened. Weather on the Java Sea was still bad, but people were sure to try to locate the plane. Parts of the eastern fleet of the Indonesian marine were put to work as well as the air force and the army. Photos were made - no not by the press, by planes - in the hope they would find at least something. The plane should have crashed on land according to the latest information.

By now the news had become so important, that the government had to make a statement. Here also people told that the plane had to be found at all cost. It was absolutely strange that a plane in this era could just disappear and stayed that way. From elsewhere in the archipelago army is send to the probable crash-site. That should be somewhere on the island of Sulawesi. The Americans offered their help with freshly taken satellite pictures. Nothing to see there so far as well. Where has that piece of junk gone?

Throughout half the Indonesian archipelago families, friends, rescue workers and politicians are alerted because of the lack of news. In the recent days we didn't see anything else than people who have an opinion about this event, but don't have a solution to it. Until today there is no one that walked in a police station to report that the plane had been found. That would be too much of an ideal scenario.

Still missing

However it's much more likely that it will take quite some time before there is any change in this situation. Maybe weeks of 'spectacular' news, like shoes that are found on beaches. These could belong to one of the passengers, of a holiday go-er that lost them of course. A mobile phone that can still be contacted after the plane went missing. All of these stories are perfect to make up new urban legends. They will continue to haunt Indonesia for quite some time.

Maybe it's good that people here let themselves guide by the mass media. They have made a big mistake by not cross-checking the messages that the plane had been found. They even didn't bother to get someone to the scene before releasing the news that the plane had been found. Directly the same press is to point at others not to get the blame themselves in the first place. Indonesia follows this all like a herd of sheep, like a sinetron (soap) with an open end, for now.

Over and over again I have to think about the popular TV-series Lost in which a plane above the Pacific Ocean gets lost and crashes. The survivors end up on a strange island. Soon it seems that everything is not that accidental as it first seems. It's fiction for sure, however the separate elements could happen in real life. Imagine that the next season suddenly features 102 Indonesian people entering the series. That would be a lot of fun. Indonesian media will have reports about that for weeks and foreign TV stations finally buy a TV-series featuring Indonesian players as well.

For now this story without an end is not a real soap yet. It's a real life drama which is being dealt with Indonesian style. Hundreds of rescue workers are at the spot where the plane for sure is not located and hundreds others are doing their best to find at least some sign of life - that's an expression - of the plane of one of it's passengers. Now it is said to be in the sea, but which sea? There are plenty in Indonesia, even enough for a boat and a plane to fit in both at the same time.

Script writers already have a laptop ready to write down their new idea's. They just have to watch one Indonesian television station and a news website like CNN. It should be possible to make a nice cinema-hit from this. Hopefully they will wait with the release until Adam Air had been declared bankrupt, it would be somewhat sad if the movie brought the deathblow for the cozy family in orange.

Posted in Accidents @ 08 January 2007 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

User icon of Yerun
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Ooh well.. still the same tragedy, no plane, no passeners yet. Emoticon:

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