Lion Air flight with 189 on board crashes into sea
JAKARTA — A Lion Air plane with 189 people on board 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 US.
Indonesia’s disaster agency posted photos online of a crushed smartphone, books, bags and parts of the aircraft fuselage that had been collected by search and rescue vessels that have converged on the area.
Lion Air said the brand-new aircraft, on a 1-hour-and-10-minute flight to Pangkal Pinang on an island chain off Sumatra, was carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two babies, and eight crew members.
Indonesian TV broadcast pictures of a fuel slick and debris field. Distraught friends and relatives prayed and hugged each other as they waited at Pangkal Pinang’s airport.
The National Search and Rescue Agency’s deputy chief, Nugroho Budi Wiryanto, said some 300 people including soldiers, police and local fishermen are involved in the search and that so far it has recovered no bodies — only ID cards, personal belongings and aircraft debris.
At the agency’s headquarters in Jakarta, family members turned up, hoping desperately for news.
Feni, who uses a single name, said her soon to be married sister was on the flight, planning to meet relatives in Pangkal Pinang.
“We are here to find any information about my younger sister, her fiance, her in-law to be and a friend of them,” said Feni.
“We don’t have any information,” she said, as her father wiped tears from reddened eyes. “No one provided us with any information that we need.
“We’re confused. We hope that our family is still alive,” she said.
Indonesia’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani also arrived at the agency and met with its chief, seeking information about 20 finance ministry staff who were on the flight after attending a ministry event in Jakarta.
The search and rescue agency said the flight ended in waters off West Java that are 30 to 35 meters (98 to 115 feet) deep.
The agency’s chief Muhammad Syaugi told a news conference that divers are trying to locate the wreckage.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 was delivered to Lion Air in mid-August and put in use within days, according to aviation website Flightradar24.
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