MEDAN, Indonesia (AP) — A decade ago, when an Indonesian passenger jet crashed into a quaint neighborhood in Indonesia’s third-biggest city, Medan, Waktu Tarigan thought he’d never witness anything like that again. He was wrong.
On Tuesday, an air force transport plane with 122 people on board plowed into the same neighborhood. And the same street.
In 2005, Padang Bulan was a charming middle-class residential area in this steamy tropical city of 3 million. Its main road, Jamin Ginting, was lined with colonial-style houses with well-manicured gardens.
The area’s only drawback was noise from nearby Polonia airport, then the main international gateway for Sumatra, one of Indonesia’s main islands.
“I cannot forget the plane crash of 10 years ago. It feels like it happened just yesterday,” said Tarigan, 40, who ran an electronics business in his house across the street from where the Mandala Airlines plane went down in June 2005, killing at least 149.
He recalled seeing the plane strike several houses and hearing the screams of people thrown from the fuselage. He ran to help but suddenly the plane exploded, engulfing trees, houses and passengers in flames.
The Boeing 737-200 crashed only seconds after takeoff. The victims included 47 people on the ground. Some 15 people on the plane survived.
Ten years later, Padang Bulan has been transformed into a thriving shopping and leisure district with its main road sporting a mall and dotted by hotels, guest houses, cafes and spas.
A new international airport has opened outside Medan, and its predecessor Polonia is now used by the air force as Suwondo air base.
Tarigan said he saw the bulky C-130 Hercules transport plane flying very low after takeoff, almost touching a tree in his backyard, before crashing about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away on Jamin Ginting.
It plowed into a new building that local media said contained a spa, shops and homes, killing all 122 on board and at least 19 people in the neighborhood.
“Of course, this second event made me worried, whether my house, my family, could be hit by the next plane crash,” said Tarigan, a father of four.
“But, where should I stay? This house and this small shop are where we live and earn a living. I just accept God’s will,” he said.
Those killed on the air force flight included military personnel and their families. Relatives of some victims said they were civilians who paid for flights in violation of military rules, to reach remote parts of the Indonesian archipelago.
Tarigan’s neighbors and residents who live near the Hercules crash site also say the two disasters 10 years apart won’t deter them from staying in the neighborhood.
“Disasters, accidents can happen anywhere and to anyone,” said Vita Saragih, 36, who runs a food stall opposite from where the Hercules crashed.
“I don’t want to leave my house in this promising area just because of the uncertainty of something that could happen,” she said.