A Lion Air plane heading to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung Islands, from Jakarta crashed into the Java Sea on Monday morning. Flight JT610 was carrying 189 people, comprising 181 passengers, two pilots and six crew members.
At least 23 government officials, four employees of state tin miner PT Timah and three employees of a Timah subsidiary, were on the plane. A Lion Air official said one Italian passenger and one Indian pilot were on board.
The plane went down in waters about 30 metres to 35 metres deep. Items such as handphones and life vests were found, along with the body parts.
Ambulances were lined up at Karawang, on the coast east of Jakarta, and police were preparing rubber dinghies, a Reuters reporter said. Fishing boats were being used to help search.
As for the cause of the crash, Flightradar24, a Swedish internet-based service that shows real-time commercial aircraft flight information on a map, tweeted on Monday morning at Jakarta time that the plane was “brand new” and Lion Air received it only in August this year.
National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) head Soerjanto Tjahjono said the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft commenced operations under Lion Air in August and had 800 flight hours, which was considered normal.
Soerjanto added that a Basarnas team was searching for the plane’s black box to determine the cause of the crash.
Lion Air chief executive officer Edward Sirait told reporters that the same aircraft had experienced a “technical issue” the night before.
“This plane previously flew from Denpasar to Cengkareng [Soekarno-Hatta airport]. There was a report of a technical issue that had been resolved according to procedure,” Edward said, declining to specify the nature of the technical issue.
The effort to find the wreckage and retrieve the black boxes represents a major challenge for investigators in Indonesia, where an AirAsia Airbus jet crashed in the Java Sea in December 2014.
Under international rules, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will automatically assist with the inquiry, backed up by technical advisers from Boeing and U.S.-French engine maker CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and Safran.
Founded in 1999, Lion Air’s only fatal accident was in 2004, when an MD-82 crashed upon landing at Solo City, killing 25 of the 163 on board, the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network says.
Photo: National Disaster Mitigation Agency