Jakarta: A plane carrying 25 passengers and crew crashed into the sea during a heavy rain on Saturday in eastern Indonesia killing everyone on board, a Navy officer confirmed.

"I can confirm that all the passengers were killed when the plane exploded as it crashed into the sea," the Navy officer involved in the search reported.

"The aircraft was smashed to pieces. We found 15 bodies floating on the water and the other passengers are trapped inside the wreckage."

A transport ministry spokesman earlier said there were 27 people -- 21 passengers and 6 crew on the Merpati Nusantara airlines, MA-60.

The officer added, “The twin turbo-prop plane took off from Sorong city in West Papua province for Kaimana district about 400 kilometres to the south.”
        
The Navy official, Gunawan, said that about 10 Navy divers had tried to find other passengers inside the wreckage, which had sunk about six kilometres deep.

"We had difficulties locating them due to strong currents and limited equipment," he said,

Airline officials were unable to comment on the chronology of the accident or the exact number of passengers.

The Director General at the Ministry of Air Transportation, Herry Bakti said, "The weather was bad as there was heavy rainfall, which shortened the (pilot's) range of vision. It was also very dark. Thus, the airplane did not reach the runway.”

In 2009 a Twin Otter plane also operated by Merpati Nusantara crashed into the side of a mountain in remote Papua while on an internal flight, killing all 16 people on board.
 
Though Indonesia relies heavily on air transport it has one of Asia's worst air safety records.

(Agencies)