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Indonesian President Orders Probe Into Plane Crash


Authorities are investigating what caused an Indonesian airliner to crash shortly after take-off, killing at least 149 people in the plane and on the ground.

The Mandala Airlines Boeing 737-200 crashed just seconds after taking off from Medan's Polonia airport on Sumatra island. More than 100 of the plane's 116 passengers and crew died, and the rest of the victims were on the ground.

The airplane smashed into a residential area next to the airport destroying houses and vehicles.

Presidential spokesman, Andi Mallerangeng, says President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who visited the crash site Tuesday, has ordered an investigation into the accident. "The president has already requested [from] the Minister of Transportation a comprehensive investigation to prevent similar accidents to happen next time," he said.

Among those who died was the governor of North Sumatra, Teuku Rizal Nurdin.

Mr. Mallerangeng, who is traveling with the Indonesian president, says Mr. Yudhoyno went to Medan to attend the governor's burial, visit the crash site, and comfort the mourners.

"The president comes with six governors, representative of the governors of Indonesia, because the governor of Sumatra Utara actually was going to come to Jakarta to have a meeting with the president, with all the governors, last night," added Mr. Mallerangeng.

The surviving passengers included a mother and her 18-month-old child.

Survivors said the plane started shaking as it took off, tilted sharply, then smashed into the ground and burst into flames.

Mandala Airlines, owned in part by a foundation linked to the Indonesian military, is a low-budget carrier that recently slashed prices and services because of financial troubles.

The plane that crashed was 25 years old, and had last been serviced in June. It was not due for retirement until 2016.

Officials say the flight data recorder, or black box, has been found and investigators from the National Transportation Committee are looking through the charred remains of the plane and collecting debris.

The plane's engines will be taken to Jakarta to for examination, and the flight recorders will be sent either to the United States, Taiwan, or Australia for analysis.

Residents of Medan, Sumatra's largest city and the third biggest city in Indonesia, flew the national flag at half-staff Tuesday in mourning for the crash victims.

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