The China-built Xian MA60 aircraft belonging to Merpati Airlines was on a domestic flight from Sorong Airport in West Papua province to Kaimana Airport, also in West Papua, when it crashed into the sea about 500 meters (0.3 mile) from its destination.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation said the aircraft was carrying 18 adults, one child, two babies, and six crew members. Fifteen bodies were recovered in the hours after the crash, while the remaining victims are believed to be trapped inside the wreckage.
It was not immediately known what caused the plane to crash, and officials were unable to say whether severe weather in the region played a role in the accident. Witnesses told the Antara news agency that the aircraft circled over Kaimana for about 15 minutes before it crashed into the sea.
In February, five people were killed when a small passenger plane belonging to local airline Sabang Merauke Raya Air Charter (SMAC) crashed during a test flight in western Indonesia.
And in April last year, around 20 people were injured when a Boeing 737-300 belonging to Merpati Airlines crashed near Rendani Airport in West Papua Province.