No sign of survivors after Lion Air plane crashed into sea; remains recovered

A forensics team carries bodies of the victims of Lion Air flight JT610 to Sukanto National Police Hospital, East Jakarta, on Monday.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

JAKARTA - Indonesia on Tuesday stepped up its search for passengers of an airliner that plunged into the sea, deploying underwater beacons to trace the flight's black box recorders in a bid to uncover why an almost-new plane crashed minutes after take-off.

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.

"Hopefully this morning we can find the wreckage or fuselage," Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of Indonesia's transport safety panel, told Reuters, adding that an underwater acoustic beacon was deployed to locate the main body of the plane.

The search and rescue agency added that four sonar detectors were also deployed in areas where aircraft debris had been found a day earlier off the shore of Karawang, West Java, and 15 vessels were scouring the sea surface.

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.

Earlier, Yusuf Latif, the spokesman of the national search and rescue agency, said there were unlikely to be survivors.

Finding survivors "would be a miracle", Latif added, judging by the condition of the recovered debris and body parts.

A witness in the Karawang district said he had heard an explosion from the beach around the time the aircraft went down.

"I thought it was thunder, but it was different from thunder - 'Boom!' - It was loud," said Dadang Hambali.

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.

Authorities told broadcaster Metro TV the bags were taken to a hospital for identification, with more expected overnight.

On tarpaulins at Jakarta's port, officers laid out items retrieved from the sea, ranging from oxygen bottles to personal effects such as wallets, a mobile telephone, cash and backpacks.

Indonesia is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record is patchy. If all aboard have died, the crash will be its second-worst air disaster since 1997, industry experts said.

On Monday, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Boeing Co said they were providing assistance in the crash investigation.

The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's workhorse single-aisle jet.

Privately owned Lion Air said the aircraft, which had been in operation since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having amassed 11,000 hours of flying time.

The pilot of flight JT610, which was bound for Pangkal Pinang in the Bangka-Belitung tin-mining region, had asked to return to base (RTB) shortly after take-off.

"An RTB was requested and had been approved but we're still trying to figure out the reason," Tjahjono told reporters on Monday.

No distress signal was received from the aircraft's emergency transmitter, search and rescue agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference.

The aircraft suffered a technical problem on a flight from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta on Sunday night but it was"resolved according to procedure", Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air Group, told reporters.

Sirait declined to specify the nature of the issue but said none of the airline's other aircraft of that model had the same problem. Lion had operated 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and it had no plan to ground the rest of them, he said.

 Divers resumed their search in waters about 30 to 35 m (98 to 115 ft) deep where the plane went down, soon after Monday's take-off in clear weather at about 6.20 a.m., ahead of a landing set for 7.20 a.m. in the city of Pangkal Pinang.

The search had been stopped for the night, said Bambang Suryo, an official of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, although sonar vessels and an underwater drone continued hunting for the wreckage, where many victims were feared trapped.

 

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