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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 19:00 GMT
Plane crash-lands on Indonesian river
Plane in river
Police say the pilot's actions saved pasengers' lives
One woman crew member has been killed after an Indonesian airline Boeing 737 crash-landed on a river during a heavy rainstorm.

All 54 passengers and five other crew survived the landing on the Bengawan Solo river about 25 kilometres (15 miles) north east of the central Javan city of Yogyakarta.

Hospital officials said 23 people on board were injured, seven of them seriously.

Passengers described the plane as rocking from side-to-side as it descended - one passenger, who walked away uninjured with his pregnant wife, said their survival was "a miracle".

Farhan Sunkar told El-Shinta radio: "We landed hard but I only realised it was a crash-landing when I saw water.

The plane, belonging to Indonesia's Garuda national airline, was en-route from the resort island of Lombok to Yogyakarta, another popular tourist destination.

It came down at 1635 (0935GMT), about 20 minutes from its destination.

Narrow target

Correspondents say the Bengawan Solo river is about 25-metres wide at the crash site, and flows through a heavily populated rural area.

A senior official at Yogyakarta airport said the pilot had landed the plane on the river after it became "trapped" in a rain storm and suffered mechanical failure. A Garuda manager said the cause of the accident was being investigated.

Doctors said the dead woman was apparently a flight attendant but did not identify her. The state Antara news agency said a flight attendant named Santi was missing.

In September 1997, a Garuda Airbus A-300 crashed into a jungle as it approached Medan airport in northern Sumatra, hampered by thick smoke from forest fires. All 234 on board were killed.

In June 1996, three people died after a Garuda DC-10 overran the runway after an aborted take-off. The crash was blamed on pilot error.

The BBC's Rick Fountain
"Severe turbulence seems to have brought it down"
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