Singaporean air crash that killed 104 was suicide by pilot, say investigators

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The Independent Online

An airliner which crashed into an Indonesian swamp, killing all 104 people on board, was an apparent suicide attempt by the pilot, according to American accident investigators.

An airliner which crashed into an Indonesian swamp, killing all 104 people on board, was an apparent suicide attempt by the pilot, according to American accident investigators.

The US National Transportation Safety Board believes the Boeing 737, operated by Singaporean operator Silk Air, was put into a deliberate nosedive.

The finding contradicts that of Indonesian investigators whose reports this week said the accident could not be explained based on the available evidence.

It was three years ago this month, on 19 December 1997, that the flight crashed into the Musi River in the jungles of Sumatra during a flight from Jakarta to Singapore.

In clear weather, the plane plummeted in a near vertical dive from a height of 35,000 feet. Crash analysts discovered that the cockpit voice and data recorders had been switched off half a minute before the plane began its descent.

According to the report by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, because of "the highly fragmented wreckage and the nearly total lack of useful data, information and evidence, the NTSC has to conclude that the technical investigation has yielded no evidence to explain the cause of the accident".

But the American report claims that the plane's wreckage showed that the engines were operating at high power at the moment of impact, and that the controls were set to angle the plane nose down.

"The airplane departed cruise flight as a result of an intentional manoeuvre requiring sustained manual flight control inputs that were most likely performed by the captain," the report concluded.

The plane's Singaporean pilot, Captain Tsu Way Ming had stock trading debts, significant credit card bills, a large loan and no obvious means of repaying them.

Just before the crash, he had bought a $1m mortgage insurance policy with his wife as the beneficiary, although at the time he died he did not know whether the application had been approved.

Yet the Indonesian investigation found no evidence "to indicate that the pilot, the co-pilot or any crew member had suicidal tendencies or a motive to deliberately cause the crash".

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