All 189 passengers and crew on board a Boeing 737 jet of Indonesia’s low-cost private airline Lion Air are feared dead as it crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta airport early on Sunday.
The plane was climbing when it suddenly lost height and disappeared from radar.
Before the plunge, the pilot sought permission to return to base and the request was granted but the plane lost contact with ground staff around 6.30am. No distress signal was received from the jet’s emergency transmitter before it plunged 30 to 40 metres deep into water.
Investigators hope the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, for which search is underway, may help to determine the cause of the crash.
The body parts of some of the passengers found about 15 km off the coast near the crash site indicate chances of finding survivors are slim. Some 70 divers are still searching for survivors near the crash site marked by a fuel slick and pieces of wreckage bearing the airline’s logo.
If there are no survivors, the crash will be the country’s second-worst air disaster after the crash in Medan that left all 214 people on board dead in 1997.
Flight JT610 was carrying 178 adult passengers, one child, two infants, two pilots and six cabin crew from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang. Some 23 officials of the finance ministry were on the plane.
Earlier, the plane developed a technical snag at Bali. The problem was fixed before it was flown back to Jakarta. It underwent another repair in the Indonesian capital before taking off to Pangkal Pinang. Engineers, who attended to the repairs, called it normal procedure.
The plane has been in operation since August this year.
Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” by the loss of lives in the crash.
The pilot and co-pilot had more than 11,000 hours of flying time between them and had recently undergone medical check-ups and drug tests.