Rescuers have retrieved 24 bags of body parts after a Lion Air plane with 189 people aboard crashed into sea off western Indonesia, the low-cost carrier said on Tuesday, report agencies.
Indonesian authorities said that the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crashed in waters near the capital city was shattered due to its severe impact with sea surface after it dived at rapid speed, allegedly from 3,000- feet height, making it break into pieces.
Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Operation Director Bambang Suryo Aji said on Monday that such a conclusion came up from pieces of bodies and parts of the plane found by search team several hours after the plane was reported of lost contact. “We hope we can see the plane’s main body — everything on the surface of the water has been collected,” Syaugi 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.
Among them were the plane’s Indian captain, 20 Indonesian finance ministry employees and Andrea Manfredi, an Italian former professional cyclist. The search and rescue agency all but ruled out finding any survivors late Monday, citing the discovery of body parts that suggested a high-impact crash in water some 30-40 metres deep off the coast of Indonesia’s Java island.
“We are prioritising finding the main wreckage of the plane using five war ships equipped with sonar to detect metal underwater,” said Yusuf Latif, spokesman of the Indonesian search and rescue agency.
Both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder — which could be key pieces of evidence — are still missing. ‘UNRELIABLE’
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).
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 and had undergone recent medical checkups and drug testing, it added.
On Monday, Lion Air acknowledged the plane had an unspecified technical issue fixed in Bali before it was flown back to Jakarta, calling it “normal procedure”.
A technical logbook detailed an “unreliable” airspeed reading instrument on the Bali-Jakarta flight on Sunday and different altitude readings on the captain and first officer’s instruments, according to the BBC.
Copies of several Lion Air technical documents have been circulating on social media, but they could not be immediately confirmed as authentic.
The company did not return phones calls seeking comment.
Boeing suspended release of the 737 MAX just days before its first commercial delivery last year due to an engine issue, according to airline safety and product review site airlineratings.com.
It said the engines were a product of a joint venture between US-based General Electric and France’s Safran Aircraft Engines.
Lion Air, Indonesia’s biggest budget airline which has been engaged in huge expansion, announced earlier this year it was buying 50 Boeing 737 MAX 10 jets for $6.24 billion.
FAKE NEWS, SAFETY WOES
A string of fake news stories have been circulating in the aftermath of the crash, including one that falsely claims to show a baby who survived and a video purportedly showing panicked passengers just before the deadly accident.
Indonesia’s disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho has knocked down both claims.
Indonesia’s air travel industry is booming, with the number of domestic passengers growing significantly over the past decade, but it has acquired a reputation for poor regulation and its airlines had previously been banned from US and European airspace.
Lion has been involved in a number of incidents including a fatal 2004 crash and a collision between two Lion Air planes at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport.