Inflight death probe sought

ENVIRONMENTAL activists are urging authorities to thoroughly investigate the death of Helmud Hontong, the deputy regent of North Sulawesi’s Sangihe Islands regency known as a staunch opponent of a local gold mine.

Helmud, 58, died last Wednesday onboard Lion Air Flight JT740 heading from Denpasar, Bali, to Makassar, South Sulawesi, as he was returning from a workshop in Bali.

The airplane took off at 3.08pm local time and landed an hour later at Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport in Makassar.

“At 3.40pm, the passenger (Helmud) required medical aid, ” Lion Air spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantoro said.A medical team from the port health authority (KKP) at the Sultan Hasanuddin airport evacuated Helmud from the aircraft when it arrived at the gate at 4.17pm.

Local media reported that Helmud was declared dead at 4.22pm, but the airport medical team could not determine the cause of death.

“People at his age could have comorbidities. An autopsy is necessary to determine the cause of death, ” Muhammad Haskar Hasan, who heads the Sultan Hasanuddin airport KKP, said on Friday as quoted by

But Helmud’s family refused an autopsy despite the local police’s offer, said Maros Police chief Sr Adj Comr Musa Hengky Pandapotan Tampubolon, according to

“The police and Komnas HAM (National Commission on Human Rights) must look into this case, ” Merah Johansyah of the Mining Advocacy Network said.

He added that a formal investigation was vital to confirming or dismissing any speculation surrounding Helmud’s death.

He was known for his strong opposition to a mining licence for the operation of a 42, 000ha gold mine concession that the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry granted to PT Tambang Mas Sangihe in January.

He said mining would pose a risk to Sangihe Island’s environment, strip local residents of their land, change the cultural structure of local villages and lead to other social issues. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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