Indonesian police arrest Garuda pilot over deadly crash

Other News Materials 5 February 2008 10:15 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Indonesian police have arrested the pilot of a Garuda airlines plane that crashed last year, killing 21 people including five Australians, officials said Tuesday.

Pilot Marwoto Komar was arrested Monday night in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta and interrogated for nine hours.

Marwoto is facing manslaughter charges over his alleged negligence and violations of aviation law.

If convicted, Marwoto could face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

National police detective Commissioner General Bambang Hendarso Danuri said police had found evidence the pilot had violated laws leading to the crash, Elshinta private radio reported.

Indonesia's Pilot Federation Association expressed shock Tuesday at the arrest of Marwoto, saying it was the first time a pilot in Indonesia had been charged with criminal offences over a crash.

The association's chairman, Manotar Napitupulu, in a meeting with the Indonesian parliament on Tuesday, urged authorities to establish an air transport tribunal rather than bringing Marwoto to criminal court.

The Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737, carrying 140 passengers and crew, slammed into an airport runway in Yogyakarta on March 7, 2007, careening into rice paddies and bursting into flames.

A final air safety inquiry report into the accident issued by Indonesia's National Transport Safety Committee in November said Marwoto ignored 15 automatic warnings not to land. It also said the Boeing 737 plane was travelling too fast when it touched down at Yogyakarta's Adi Sutjipto airport.

However, the committee declined to attribute the crash to pilot error.

One Australian journalist and four officials involved in a visit by the former foreign minister, Alexander Downer, were among the fatalities when the plane overshot the runway and caught fire.