Lion Air crash: 'I'm sure dad could swim his way out and survive the crash'

PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Among passengers of Lion Air flight JT610, which crashed into the Java Sea on Monday, were regulars of the flight.  

It was a flight frequently taken by those who “commute” between Jakarta and Pangkalpinang, the capital of Bangka Belitung Islands.

The flight, the earliest on Monday, was convenient as it allowed the many civil servants assigned to Pangkalpinang to spend the weekend with their families in Jakarta, before returning to work the following Monday.  

Employees of the tax office, who were among passengers of the crashed plane, took the flight so often that it was said in jest that they were “purchasing airplanes in installments”,  shared a tax office official.

Other passengers caught the flight to go back to their hometown after visiting their parents or going on a quick weekend getaway in Jakarta, while others were aboard the plane for a quick business trip.

Family and friends of some of the victims of the air crash have spoken with The Jakarta Post. Below are their faces and stories.

Lion Air plane carrying 189 people crashes into sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta

  • Chief of Indonesia's Lion Air flight JT610 search and rescue operations Muhammad Syaugi looks through recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta
  • A pair of infant shoes is pictured among recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta.
  • There were 189 people on board flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air when ground staff lost contact with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft early on Monday, 13 minutes after it had left the airport in Jakarta, the capital.
  • Rescue team members arrange the wreckage, showing part of the logo of Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea
  • A crying mother shows a graduation picture of her son, Agil Nugroho Septian, who was a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Tegal, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.
  • Lutfiani shows an undated picture of her husband, Deryl Fida Febrianto, a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Surabaya, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.
  • A witness in the Karawang district said he had heard an explosion from the beach around the time the aircraft went down.
  • Sangeeta Suneja, mother of Bhavye Suneja, a pilot of Lion Air flight JT610 which crashed into the sea, reacts as she leaves for Jakarta, in New Delhi
  • Gulshan Suneja, father of pilot Bhavye Suneja.
  • Sony Setiawan (C) speaks to journalists at Pangkal Pinang airport in Bangka Belitung province on October 29, 2018, following his arrival on another airline after missing his pre-planned flight on Lion Air flight JT 610 which crashed off the coast north of Jakarta. - Setiawan was due to board the ill-fated Boeing-737 MAX but was held up on his commute to Soekarno-Hatta airport by Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion.
  • A forensics team carries bodies of the victims of Lion Air flight JT610 to Sukanto National Police Hospital, East Jakarta, on Monday. In a statement, Lion Air said human remains had been collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the crash site, which is about 15 km (nine miles) off the coast to the northeast of Jakarta.
  • Rescue team members carry a body bag with the remains of a passenger.
  • Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati hugs a relative of a victim of the Lion Air flight JT610 crash.
  • The Indonesian authorities have mounted a search and rescue operation for a Lion Air plane which crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta on Monday (Oct 29) morning.
  • There are 189 passengers and crew on board the plane, including two infants, one child, two pilots and six cabin crew.
  • The plane plunged into Karawang Bay, West Java province, Mr Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue agency, told a press briefing.
  • The waters at the crash site are around 30m to 35m deep.
  • "On the sea surface, we found debris… The location is two nautical miles from where the plane lost contact," he told reporters.
  • The crash site is near a facility of state-owned oil company Pertamina in West Java province. A video taken from a Pertamina vessel near the crash site showed oil patches on the water surface.
  • Officials said the plane had requested a return to base before finally disappearing from the radar.
  • Local TV footage also showed wallets and mobile phones that had been retrieved from the waters.
  • The head of Indonesia's national transportation safety committee (KNKT) Dr Soerjanto Tjahjono told reporters that the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane that crashed entered service in August this year and had clocked only about 800 flight hours.
  • When asked on the cause of the crash, Dr Soerjanto said: "We can't presume anything before finding the blackbox and also the recording from the (air traffic control) tower."
  • An Indonedian boatman takes pictures as debris from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 floats at sea in the waters north of Karawang, West Java province.

Paul Ayorbaba

Paul Ayorbaba Photo: Arline Mandolang Mawikere Facebook's page

Paul Ayorbaba, 43, was an employee at a Jakarta-based shipping company, a position that often forced him to leave his wife, Inchy Ayorbaba, and three kids behind in Jakarta.

His daughter, 13-year-old Finanda Naysyifa “Nanda” Ayorbaba, said it was the first time her father had flown to Pangkalpinang for a business trip. 

“He usually leaves for Palembang or Surabaya when he goes out of town,” she told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. “I think this was the first time he left for Pangkalpinang.”

Paul’s mother, Tiece Makalew, 69, said on that fateful morning, her son was leaving to take care of business and deliver documents to his company’s Pangkalpinang branch.

She remembered her son as a loving, tender man who never hesitated to stand up to anyone who threatened his closest relatives. The Real Madrid enthusiast  was also a big fan of soccer and exercised regularly.

Paul is a good swimmer, Nanda said. That was why she was hopeful that Paul would survive when she heard that the plane crashed into the sea.

“I’m sure dad could swim his way out and survive the crash,” she said. “I’m still holding onto his promise that he would only be leaving for two days.”

M. Luthfi Nurramdhani

Luthfi Nurramdhani Photo:

Twenty-four-year-old M. Luthfi “Upi” Nurramdhani was planning to go straight to work at the Pangkalpinang branch of state-owned postal service firm Pos Indonesia as soon as he arrived after visiting Jakarta for personal business over the weekend.

Besides going back to work, going back to the capital city of Bangka Belitung Islands province also meant that he would be reunited with his pregnant wife, 25-year-old Karlina Setiaputri, who works for the National Narcotics Agency (BNN).

“Lina asked her employer to be moved to Pangkalpinang so she could be closer to her husband,” Nabila Kariza, 25, a friend of Upi’s, said on Wednesday.

“They had just gotten married in January.”

For Nabila, who met Upi when they were students at the School of Communication Science, Padjadjaran University, in Bandung, West Java, Upi was the kindest person she had ever met as he never hesitated to lend a hand to his friends whenever they were in need.

Upi's parents have started to accept that Upi might not have survived the crash, she said.  

"They believe Upi is a martyr and will go straight to heaven," she said.

Wita, Gilang and Kyara

Wita , Gilang, and Kyara Photo: Instagram/raramargie

Fifty-five-year-old Anshori turned on his car minutes after he received a call at 6:15 a.m. from his daughter, Wita Seriani, to warm up his engine before leaving for Depati Amir Airport, about 30 kilometres away from Sungailiat, where he and his family, as well as Wita, lived.

“She asked me to pick her and her family up at the airport after travelling from Jakarta,” he told the Post on Tuesday.

However, when he arrived at the airport at 8:30 a.m., there were no notifications that Lion Air JT610 had landed. An hour later, an airline officer approached him and said air traffic control had lost contact with the flight and it was feared to have crashed into the sea.

Wita was supposed to return to Sungailiat last weekend after attending an event with her 1-year-old daughter, Kyara Aurine Daniendra Giwitri, and husband, Gilang Perkasa Sanusi Putra, in Bengkulu.

Last weekend, Anshori recalled, Gilang’s employer, state-owned electricity firm PLN, was holding a company anniversary event in Bengkulu, so her husband asked his dentist wife and their daughter to join him in Bengkulu, where he lived, to attend the event.

After the event, however, Wita informed her father that the family of three was unable to get plane tickets back to Pangkalpinang. That was when she and Gilang decided to go to Jakarta instead and stayed at a hotel over the weekend before catching the first flight to the city so she could attend a Youth Pledge Day flag-hoisting ceremony at her workplace at the Sungailiat Community Health Clinic.

Tribun Style reported that during her visit to Jakarta, Wita and her family went shopping and had dinner with her cousin, Rara Margie, at Central Park shopping mall in West Jakarta the night before she left the next morning.

“We ate sushi until we were full and shopped for so many things for Kyara,” she wrote on her Instagram story on Monday as quoted by Tribun Style.

“Kyara, let’s hang out together again. We promised last night to travel to Singapore this December, remember?”

Bhavye Suneja

Bhavye Suneja​Photo:

Bhavye Suneja, a New Delhi, India native, left his hometown for his career as a pilot and worked for the low-cost carrier Lion Air in Jakarta. During his stint at the airline, Suneja clocked in more than 6,000 flight hours and was known to be familiar with the Boeing 737 plane.

According to his Linkedin profile, the 31-year-old obtained his pilot license in 2009 from the Bel Air International Flight School in California, United States. A year later, he joined Emirates Airlines as a trainee pilot for four months before joining Lion Air in 2011.

In a statement obtained by the Post recently, Suneja was thinking about returning to India by applying for a job at a leading Indian airline.

“Being an experienced pilot handling the Boeing 737 with an incident, accident-free record, we were keen to have him with us because of his good credentials,” an unnamed vice president of the airline said in the statement. “His only request was that he wanted a Delhi posting as he was from the city.”

However, the vice president told him that he should fly with the airline for a year and the company would consider his posting in Delhi.

Suneja’s wife, Garima Sethi, whom he married in 2016, resides in Jakarta. Tribunnews reported that Sethi left her job as finance manager at Indian media company The Indian Express, to be with her husband.

On Wednesday afternoon, Suneja’s father visited Kramat Jati Police Hospital in in East Jakarta to provide a DNA sample that would be used to identify his son’s remains.

Rebiyanti and Indra Bayu Adji

Rebiyanti dan Indra Bayu Aji ​Photo: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Ardiansyah, 30, never expected his sister, Rebiyanti, and his brother-in-law, Indra Bayu Aji, to be inside the downed Lion Air flight JT610, which was en route from Jakarta to their hometown of Pangkalpinang.

“I knew they were in Jakarta, but I didn’t think both of them would be boarding the flight,” he said.

Rebiyanti, who worked at a smelter in Pangkalpinang, was in a long-distance marriage with her husband, who worked at a mine in East Kalimantan.

While she was in Palembang for business, Indra told her that he would be going to Bandung, so the pair decided to meet at the center point in Jakarta and spend the weekend together in the city, leaving their 1-year-old son behind with Rebiyanti’s parents.

Ardi said he and his family knew Rebiyanti and Indra were in Jakarta. However, they had not told anyone that they planned to return to Pangkalpinang together. That was why their entire family was shocked to learn that Rebiyanti and Indra were in the crashed plane.

Although Rebiyanti and Ardi, who worked at a mining company in West Kalimantan, were not in constant communication with each other, they would catch up via video call.

“She loved kids,” he recalled. “She would complain every time our nieces and nephews went home because her house would fall silent and she hated that.”