Indonesian Plane Carrying 189 Passengers, Crew Crashes Into Sea

Indonesian Plane Carrying 189 Passengers, Crew Crashes Into Sea

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A brand new Indonesian Lion Air plane carrying 189 passengers and crew crashed into the sea Monday, officials said, as the carrier acknowledged that the jet had previously been grounded for repairs.

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 be allowed 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.

Video footage apparently filmed at the scene of the crash showed a slick of fuel on the surface of the water.

Pictures also emerged of debris, including what appeared to be an emergency slide, and bits of wreckage bearing Lion Air’s logo.

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).

It was not yet known if there were any foreigners on board. A search and rescue operation swung into gear, with organisers saying the plane was in water about 30 to 40 metres deep.

Images filmed at Pangkal Pinang’s main airport showed families of passengers crying and hugging each other, with some yelling “Oh 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.

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.

The transport ministry had initially said there was a total of 188 people on board.

The finance ministry said around 20 of its employees were on the plane.

“I still hope for a miracle that some passengers are still alive,” said Sendi Arika, whose uncle was on the flight. Lion Air said the plane had only gone into service in August.

The pilot and co-pilot had more than 11,000 hours of flying time between them, had recent medical checkups and had undergone drug testing, it added. Lion Air CEO Edward Sirait said the plane had an unspecified technical issue fixed in Bali before it was flown back to Jakarta.

“Engineers in Jakarta received notes and did another repair before it took off” on Monday, Edward Sirait told AFP, calling it “normal procedure”.

– Poor safety record –

US-based Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” by news of the crash. Indonesia relies heavily on air transport to connect its thousands of islands but has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered several fatal crashes in recent years.

In August 2015, a commercial passenger aircraft operated by Indonesian carrier Trigana crashed in Papua due to bad weather, killing all 54 people on board.


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