Jakarta: All 189 passengers and crew aboard a crashed Indonesian Lion Air jet were likely killed in the accident, rescue officials said on Monday, as they announced they had found human remains and would continue the grim search through the night.
The Boeing-737 MAX, which went into service just months ago, vanished from radar 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta, plunging into the Java Sea moments after it had asked to return to the Indonesian capital.
Websites that display flight data showed the plane speeding up as it suddenly lost altitude in the minutes before it disappeared, with authorities saying witnesses saw the jet plunge into the water.
“My prediction is that nobody survived because the victims that we found, their bodies were no longer intact and it's been hours so it is likely 189 people have died,” search and rescue agency operational director Bambang Suryo Aji told reporters.
Some 40 divers are part of about 150 personnel at the scene, authorities said, with the plane wreckage some 30 to 40 metres deep in the water.
Earlier, video footage apparently filmed at the scene of the crash showed a slick of fuel on the surface of the water and pictures showed what appeared to be an emergency slide and bits of wreckage bearing Lion Air’s logo.
The carrier acknowledged that the jet had previously been grounded for unspecified repairs.
“It’s really a mystery what could have happened,” said Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor of industry publication Flightglobal.
“Hopefully they will be able to locate the (cockpit) voice data recorders.”
The plane had been en route to Pangkal Pinang city, a jumping off point for beach-and-sun seeking tourists on nearby Belitung island, when it dropped out of contact around 6.30 am (2330 GMT). One Italian national was aboard the plane, the transportation ministry said.
Images filmed at Pangkal Pinang’s main airport showed families of passengers crying and hugging each other, with some calling out to god.
“This morning he called asking about our youngest son,” said a sobbing Ermayati, referring to her 45-year-old husband Muhammed Syafii, who was on board.
At Jakarta’s main airport, Zainal Abidin waited desperately for news about his daughter. “If my daughter is dead, I just wish she’ll be buried properly,” the 63-year-old said. Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) said there were 178 adult passengers, one child, two infants, two pilots and six cabin crew on board flight JT 610.
About 20 finance ministry employees were on the plane, including half a dozen colleagues of Sony Setiawan who missed check in for a flight he took weekly due to bad traffic. “I know my friends were on that flight,” he said.
Setiawan said he was only informed about his lucky escape after he arrived in Pangkal Pinang on another flight....