Lion Air flight JT 610 crashed into the sea off the capital, Jakarta, Monday morning with 189 people on board, Indonesian investigators are examining debris.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two infants, as well as six crew members and two pilots, when it disappeared from radar during a short flight from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang, according to Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (SAR).
The plane took off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Greater Jakarta at 6.21 a.m. local time, and had been due to land at around 7:30 a.m. in Pangkal Pinan, the largest city on the Indonesian island of Bangka.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said there were 20 ministry officials on board, who were returning to their posts in Pangkal Pinang after spending the weekend with their families in Jakarta for a public holiday.
Debris, life vests and a cellphone have been discovered in the water two nautical miles from the coordinates given as the crash site, SAR officials said. The fuselage has not yet been located.
Boats, a helicopter and 250 rescuers, including divers, were working at the crash site, some 34 nautical miles off the coast near Jakarta in the Java Sea. The frogmen are searching in water up to 35 meters (114 feet) deep.
Images have been released by Indonesia Disaster Mitigation Agency showing officials examining what appears to be debris from the plane. Video shows an oil slick at the presumed site of the crash.
Authorities said they are still trying to locate the Emergency Locator Transmitter which is currently not transmitting.
‘Everything is on the table’
Former accident investigator Alan Diehl told CNN it looks like the accident occurred after a “sudden departure from controlled flight.”
“Air safety investigators will be looking at four broad categories — mechanical, human, weather and criminal. It appears now that weather was not a factor but other than that, everything is on the table.
“Clearly if you’re having an emergency you have to focus on troubleshooting first of all, and solving the problem, so you probably don’t have a lot of time to talk to the controllers. The fact that they had enough time to tell them that they wanted to return, that is significant.
“The fragmented floating debris suggests that there’s probably not going to be a rescue effort but they should certainly be able to recover the black boxes fairly expeditiously.”
Serpihan pesawat Lion Air JT 610 yang jatuh di perairan Karawang. Beberapa kapal tug boad membantu menangani evakuasi. Video diambil petugas tug boad yang ada di perairan Karawang. pic.twitter.com/4GhKcRYkpG
— Sutopo Purwo Nugroho (@Sutopo_PN) October 29, 2018
Official: Assumption is plane sunk
The aircraft was seen last on the radar at 6.22 a.m. at 2,500 to 3,000 feet, Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of the National Transport Safety Committee (NTSC) said. Australian air traffic controllers were asked for assistance but could not detect the aircraft.
A spokesman for the low-cost carrier confirmed to CNN affiliate CNN Indonesia that it had lost contact with the flight soon after take-off. The flight was last recorded in the Thousand Islands regency, an archipelago north of Jakarta.
Search teams are working on the assumption that the plane has sunk and were expected to use equipment to try to detect an underwater locator beacon.
Lion Air acquired the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in August 2018 and it had only flown 800 hours, Tjahjono said.
Boeing, the manufacturer of the aircraft, released a statement saying the company 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,” the statement said.
The 737 MAX 8 is one of the latest versions of a jet that was introduced in 1967. More than 10,000 737s have been produced, making it the best-selling jetliner of all time.
The MAX versions of the 737s are touted for their LEAP jet engines which Boeing says “redefine the future of efficient and environmentally friendly air travel.”
In its statement, Boeing said it was ready to provide technical assistance to accident investigators, and that all questions about the incident should be directed to Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC).
Lion Air said the captain of JT 610, Bhavye Suneja, had more than 6,000 flight hours, and his copilot, named Harvino, more than 5,000. It said the plane had been declared “operationally feasible.”
Three of the crew were undergoing training, the statement said.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, the airline was added to the European Union’s blacklist of banned carriers in July 2007, and removed from the list in June 2016.
Source CNN | Edi Amin in Hong Kong contributed to this report.