A passenger plane carrying 189 people has crashed into the sea off Jakarta, minutes after takeoff on a domestic flight to an Indonesian tin-mining region.
Lion Air flight JT610, travelling from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang on the island of Bangka, lost contact with air control about 13 minutes after it took off, shortly after its pilot had asked to turn back to base. Flight data showed it made a sudden, sharp dive into the sea.
There was no sign of any survivors from the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet, a new model that was only launched globally last year. The specific plane had only been in use for two months. Rescue officials said later on Monday they had recovered some human remains from the crash site, about 15km 9 miles (15km) off the coast.
Lion Air’s chief executive officer, Edward Sirait, told reporters the same plane had suffered “a technical issue” on Sunday night, but engineers had cleared it to fly on Monday morning.
“This plane previously flew from Denpasar to Jakarta,” he said. “There was a report of a technical issue which had been resolved according to procedure.”
Sirait did not elaborate on the specific issue, and said he had no plans to ground the rest of Lion Air’s Max 8 fleet. Lion Air operates 11 planes of the Max 8 model.
As search and rescue efforts were underway on Monday, rescuers released footage of debris and personal items floating in the water at the crash site, including handbags, clothing, mobile phones, ID cards and driver’s licences.
One relative waiting at Pangkal Pingang airport told the Associated Press her sister was on the flight. Feni, who uses a single name, told reporters: “We are here to find any information about my younger sister, her fiance, her in-law-to-be and a friend of them. We don’t have any information. We’re confused. We hope that our family is still alive.”
Roughly 20 of the 189 people on board were Indonesian finance department officials who had travelled to Jakarta for a conference.
A statement from Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said the aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter had not sent out a distress signal, despite being certified to work until August 2019.
The plane went down in waters about 30 metres to 35 metres (98 to 115 ft) deep. Items such as handphones and life vests were found, along with the body parts.
Indonesia’s disaster agency spokesman posted video of some debris on Twitter.
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
Another official said he could not confirm the cause of the crash, which would have to wait until the recovery of the plane’s black boxes, cockpit voice recorder and data flight recorder.
However, it was confirmed that the pilot had requested to turn back to the airport shortly after take off.
“We will collect all data from the control tower,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono. “The plane is so modern, it transmits data from the plane and that we will review too. But the most important is the black box.”
Monday’s incident is the first to be reported that involves the widely sold Boeing 737 Max 8, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the common 737. The first Boeing 737 Max jets were introduced into service in 2017.
Boeing released a statement saying it was aware of the incident and was “closely monitoring” the situation, while the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, expressed his condolences in a televised address.
Australian government officials have also been instructed not to fly Lion Air until the cause of the crash can be determined.
Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, although its safety record is patchy. If all aboard have died, the crash would be the country’s second-worst air disaster since 1997, industry experts said.