Authorities in Indonesia on Tuesday intensified their search for a Lion Air passenger flight that crashed into the sea soon after taking off a day ago, Reuters reported. All 189 people aboard the flight, which took off from Jakarta and was headed for Pangkal Pinang city in the Bangka Island, are feared dead.
An underwater acoustic beacon was deployed to locate the main body of the plane and the flight recorder. “Hopefully this morning we can find the wreckage or fuselage,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono, the chief of a national transport safety panel.
While there have been no signs of survivors, debris and personal belongings have been collected from the site of the crash. Muhammad Syaugi, the head of the search and rescue agency, said teams on Tuesday filled up 10 body bags with limbs and other human remains, AFP reported. They will be taken to Jakarta for identification and DNA testing, he said, adding that another 14 bags filled with debris were also collected.
According to Indonesia’s deputy police chief Dono Sukmanto, the remains of an infant were among those found.
“We hope we can see the plane’s main body – everything on the surface of the water has been collected,” Syaugi said.
The search and rescue agency is using four sonar detectors in areas where debris from the aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, was found. Fifteen vessels and dozens of divers were scouring for survivors and flotsam off the shore of Karawang in West Java.
The head of Indonesia’s disaster agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, confirmed that sonar techonology was being used to detect the aircraft body on the seabed.
The aircraft had technical problems, including “unreliable airspeed”, on its previous flight from Denpasar to Jakarta on Sunday, Haryo Satmiko, the deputy chief of Indonesia’s national transportation safety committee. said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “The suspected cause of the accident is still being investigated and it is making us all curious what could have caused it,” he said.
Lion Air flight JT-610 took off from 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 plane was scheduled to arrive at Pangkal Pinang at 7.20 am. It was carrying 178 adult passengers, three children, two pilots and five flight attendants.
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.
In a statement, Boeing said it was “deeply saddened by the loss of Flight JT 610”.
“We express our concern for those on board, and extend heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones,” it said. “Boeing stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation.”