The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (Basarnas) received a report on Monday morning that air traffic control had lost contact with a Lion Air flight from Jakarta to Pangkalpinang in Bangka Belitung.
The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was carrying 189 people when it lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after take-off.
A vessel traffic service officer in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, Suyadi, told The Jakarta Post that at 6:45 a.m. he received a report from a tugboat, AS Jaya II, that the crew had seen a downed plane, suspected to be a Lion Air plane, in Tanjung Bungin in Karawang, West Java.
Several identity cards, bank books and driving licences have been found, but there is still no sign of the black box from the aircraft, said Brigadier-General (BG) Nugroho Budi Wiryanto, who is deputy head for operations at Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency Basarnas.
When asked if divers have found any survivors or bodies, he would say only that there were some signs of remains such as limbs, but he reiterated that the search is still ongoing.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said the authorities would do their best to find and rescue the victims of Monday’s air crash.
“I will continue to pray that victims can be found immediately. I’m deeply concerned for the families of the victims, but we hope the victims’ families will stay calm while waiting for the SAR (search and rescue) teams which are currently working hard at the scene. I also ordered the KNKT to immediately investigate this incident and submit the results of the investigation as quickly as possible,” said Mr Joko.
More than 300 personnel from Basarnas, the Indonesian military (TNI) and police have been mobilised for the search and rescue operations, which will be carried out for seven days, and extended by three days if needed.
Lion Air chief executive Edward Sirait said he is still waiting for updates on the status of the 189 people on board. He also confirmed that according to the pilot’s records, the plane was in a condition to fly.
“There was a technical problem reported after the previous flight the night before from Denpasar to Jakarta, and the problem was dealt with and the plane was subsequently released to fly by a certified engineer,” he added.
Mr Sirait also said Lion Air stood by its pilots and was sure they operated according to required procedures.
“The weather was also good, everything was clear before the incident,” he added.
On a request by the pilot to return to base shortly after take-off, Mr Sirait would only say that Lion Air is still trying to verify the information.