A Lion Air passenger flight travelling from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta to the city of Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Island crashed into the sea minutes after taking off on Monday, reported Reuters.
Directorate General of Civil Aviation at the Indonesian transport ministry, Sindu Rahayu, said the aircraft was carrying 178 adult passengers, three children, two pilots and five flight attendants, AFP reported.
Search and rescue officials said it was likely that there were no survivors. “We need to find the main wreckage,” The Independent quoted Bambang Suryo, the operational director of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, as saying. “I predict there are no survivors, based on body parts found so far.” Six bodies have been recovered so far, CNN reported, and they have been taken a hospital in East Jakarta.
Indian national Bhavye Suneja, the captain of the flight, was killed in the crash. Suneja and his co-pilot, Harvino, had 11,000 hours of flying between them, according to Lion Air’s statement.
Muhmmad Syaugi, the head of the search and rescue agency, said wreckage has been found near the place where the plane lost contact with air traffic officials.
Lion Air flight JT-610 took off from the Jakarta at 6.20 am (4.50 am Indian time) and lost contact at 6.33 am (5.03 am Indian time), according to The Straits Times. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was scheduled to arrive at Pangkal Pinang at 7.20 am.
The flight, which crashed into the water about 30 metres to 40 metres deep, had requested to return to base shortly before losing contact, said AirNav Indonesia spokesperson Yohanes Harry Sirait. “The [traffic] control allowed that, but then it lost contact,” he added. Sirait said the aircraft would have been given priority landing upon such request. The plane had not turned back, according to the radar, CNN reported.
Officials from the Indonesian energy firm Pertamina said debris, including plane seats, were found near its offshore facility in the Java Sea, Reuters reported. The chief of Indonesia’s disaster agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, tweeted images that he said showed debris and personal belongings recovered from the site of the crash.
Chief Executive Officer of Lion Air Group Edward Sirait said they were to “collect all the information and data” and cannot give a comment at this moment. Boeing said it was “closely monitoring the situation”.
Edward Sirait said the plane previously flew from Denpasar to Cengkareng (Jakarta). “There was a report of a technical issue which had been resolved according to procedure,” Reuters quoted him as saying. He did not specify the nature of the technical problem.
Soerjanto Tjahjono, an official at Indonesia’s safety transport committee, said the cause of the crash cannot be confirmed until the fight’s recorder is recovered. “The plane is so modern, it transmits data from the plane and that we will review too,” Tjahjono told Reuters. “But the most important is the black box.”
Preliminary flight tracking data from Flightradar24 showed the aircraft climbed to around 5,000 feet before losing, and then regaining height before finally plunging towards the sea, reported Channel News Asia.
In December 2014, an AirAsia flight carrying 162 people crashed into the Java Sea after taking off from Surabaya to Singapore. The Indonesian air carriers have faced years-long bans in the past from entering United States and European Union airspace over safety records.