Indonesian authorities have confirmed that a missing Lion Air plane that lost contact with air traffic controllers early Monday crashed into the sea shortly after take-off.
Channel News Asia quoted Yusuf Latif, a spokesman for Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, shortly after the crash as confirming the aircraft had gone down.
The news channel later reported there were 181 people– including two infants, one child and eight crew members – on board. But other reports said there were 189 on board, including seven crew.
The Lion Air flight JT-610 took off from the Jakarta airport at the 6.20am local time and lost contact at 6.33am. The Boeing 737 Max 8 was originally scheduled to arrive at Pangkal Pinang at 7.20am in Pangkalpinang on Bangka Belitung province.
Indonesia’s Transport Minister revealed the Boeing 737-8 Max requested a return to base before disappearing from radar, according to The Australian newspaper.
The aircraft is understood to have climbed to a maximum altitude of 5400ft before it lost height and crashed in what Indonesian officials said was 30-35m of water.
Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) chief M Syaugi said the agency quickly deployed boats and a helicopter to search for the plane.
“Once we arrived at the co-ordinates we found aircraft debris, buoys, handphones as well as some other pieces,” he said. “It was around two nautical miles from the co-ordinates given by air traffic control
“We are there now, our vessels and helicopter, to give assistance.
“The water there is around 30 to 35 metres deep. We are now still trying to dive to find the aircraft. Hopefully, the process would not take long.”
A shipping traffic officer in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, Suyadi, told The Jakarta Post that he has received a report from a tugboat, AS Jaya II, that the crew had seen a downed plane in Tanjung Bungin in Karawang, West Java.
“At 7:15 am the tugboat reported it had approached the site and the crew saw the debris of a plane,” Suyadi said.
Two other ships, a tanker and a cargo ship, near the location were approaching the site, he said, and a Basarnas rescue boat was also on the way.
Lion Air Group chief executive Edward Sirait said the airline could not comment at this time.
“We are trying to collect all the information and data,” he said.
The last major accident in Indonesia was in December 2014 when an AirAsia Indonesia’s Airbus A320 aircraft crashed into the waters after taking off from Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board.