Thursday 14 November 2019

Indonesian authorities search for victims of Lion Air plane crash, with 189 on board

  • No sign of survivors after plane crashed into sea and sank
  • Underwater beacons scour waters around crash site
  • Pilot asked to turn back but lost contact minutes after takeoff
Relatives began to gather at the airport on Monday (AP/Hadi Sutrisno)
Relatives began to gather at the airport on Monday (AP/Hadi Sutrisno)
Distraught: Relatives of passengers on Lion Air flight JT610 wait at the airport in Jakarta. Photo: Reuters
Rescuers conduct search operation in the waters of Ujung Karawang, West Java (AP)
Rescuers search for victims of a Lion Air passenger jet that crashed in the waters off Tanjung Karawang, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The Lion Air flight crashed into the sea just minutes after taking off from Indonesia's capital on Monday in a blow to the country's aviation safety record after the lifting of bans on its airlines by the European Union and U.S. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Relatives of passengers of the Lion Air plane that crashed into the sea are seen at Depati Amir airport in Pangkal Pinang, Belitung island, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Hadi Sutrisno via REUTERS
Rescue personnel prepare to dive at the location where a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea in the north coast of Karawang regency, West Java province Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Handout/Basarnas via REUTERS
A rescue personnel prepares a ROV before starting to find the location of the Lion Air plane crash in the sea in Karawang regency, West Java province Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Handout/Basarnas via REUTERS
Relatives of passengers of the Lion Air plane that crashed into the sea cry at Depati Amir airport in Pangkal Pinang, Belitung island, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Hadi Sutrisno via REUTERS
Recovered debris are seen of what is believed from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610, that took off from Jakarta and crashed into the ocean, Indonesia October 29, 2018 in this image obtained from social media. Basarnas/via REUTERS
Relatives of passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 that crashed into the sea arrive at Soekarno Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
In this May 12, 2012 file photo, a Lion Air passenger jet is parked on the tarmac at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, Indonesia. Indonesia's Lion Air said Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, it has lost contact with a passenger jet flying from Jakarta to an island off Sumatra. (AP Photo/Trisnadi, File)
In this photo released by Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) rescuers inspect debris believed to be from a Lion Air passenger jet that crashed off West Java on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (BNPB via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) a rescuer inspects debris believed to be from Lion Air passenger jet that crashed off West Java on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (BNPB via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) rescuers inspect debris believed to be from Lion Air passenger jet that crashed off West Java on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.. (BNPB via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) rescuers inspect oi slick debris believed to be from Lion Air passenger jet that crashed off West Java on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (BNPB via AP)
Workers of PT Pertamina examine recovered debris of what is believed from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610, onboard Prabu ship owned by PT Pertamina, off the shore of Karawang regency, West Java province, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/PT Pertamina/Handout via REUTERS
Workers of PT Pertamina stand onboard Prabu ship owned by PT Pertamina as they watch what is believed to be debris from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610, off the shore of Karawang regency, West Java province, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/PT Pertamina/Handout via REUTERS
Passengers wait for their flight in front of a Lion Air office at Soekarno Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Workers of PT Pertamina examine recovered debris from what is believed to be the crashed Lion Air flight JT610, onboard Prabu ship owned by PT Pertamina off the shore of Karawang regency, West Java province, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/PT Pertamina/Handout via REUTERS
Workers of PT Pertamina examine recovered debris of what is believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610, onboard Prabu ship owned by PT Pertamina, off the shore of Karawang regency, West Java province, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/PT Pertamina/Handout via REUTERS
A policeman helps a woman who is a relative of a passenger of Lion Air flight JT610 that crashed into the sea, as she arrives at a crisis center at Soekarno Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Relatives of passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 that crashed into the sea, arrive at crisis center at Soekarno Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Relatives of passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 that crashed into the sea, cry at Depati Amir airport in Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Elza Elvia via REUTERS

Cindy Silviana and Fransiska Nangoy

Indonesia on Tuesday stepped up a search for an airliner that plunged into the sea with all 189 aboard feared dead, deploying underwater beacons to trace its black box recorders and uncover why an almost-new plane crashed minutes after take-off.

Indonesia, one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets, has a patchy safety record. With the now almost certain prospect of all on board having died, the crash is set to rank as the country's second-worst air disaster.

Ground staff lost contact with flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air 13 minutes after the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft took off early on Monday from the airport in Jakarta, the capital, on its way to Indonesia's tin-mining region.

"Hopefully this morning we can find the wreckage or fuselage," Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of a national 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 being used in areas where aircraft debris was found a day earlier off the shore of Karawang, West Java, and 15 vessels were scouring the sea surface.

A helicopter circled over five rubber boats carrying about 36 rescuers, as some donned rubber suits, readying to dive.

Earlier, however, Yusuf Latif, the spokesman of the national search and rescue agency, had said finding survivors "would be a miracle", judging by the condition of the recovered debris and body parts.

In a statement, Lion Air said human remains were collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the site of the crash, in waters about 30 to 35 metres (98 to 115 ft) deep roughly 15 km (nine miles) off the coast to the northeast of Jakarta.

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

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.

Distraught: Relatives of passengers on Lion Air flight JT610 wait at the airport in Jakarta. Photo: Reuters
Distraught: Relatives of passengers on Lion Air flight JT610 wait at the airport in Jakarta. Photo: Reuters

Although searchers halted efforts overnight, sonar vessels and an underwater drone kept up the hunt for the wreckage, where many victims were feared trapped, officials said.

A witness in Karawang 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.

On Monday, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Boeing Co said they were providing assistance in the crash investigation. (For details of search, crash inquiry, please click on )

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, founded in 1999, 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.

Rescuers conduct search operation in the waters of Ujung Karawang, West Java (AP)
Rescuers conduct search operation in the waters of Ujung Karawang, West Java (AP)

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 about 6.20 a.m., with landing set for 7.20 a.m. in the city of Pangkal Pinang.

"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.

Indonesia's worst air disaster was in 1997, when a Garuda Indonesia A300 crashed in the city of Medan, killing 234 people.

A Lion Air passenger jet went down in around 100ft of water off Jakarta (AP)
A Lion Air passenger jet went down in around 100ft of water off Jakarta (AP)

Reuters

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