UPDATE2: Indonesian plane with 189 people crashes off Java

30, Oct. 2018

JAKARTA, Kyodo - An Indonesian aircraft carrying 189 crew and passengers crashed into the sea off Java Island on Monday morning shortly after take-off from Jakarta, Indonesian authorities said.

Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 bound for Pangkalpinang on the Indonesian island of Bangka, just off Sumatra Island, was carrying 178 adult passengers and three children as well as eight crew, according to the airline. Among the passengers were three trainee flight attendants and a trainee technician.

The Jakarta-based budget carrier said in a statement that the flight lost contact 13 minutes after taking off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 6:20 a.m.

A Transportation Ministry official said the plane crashed in waters near West Java Province about 70 kilometers northeast of Jakarta. Search and rescue officials, including about 30 divers, have been sent to the scene, according to local police.

It is the worst air disaster in Indonesia since an AirAsia Airbus A320-200 plane bound for Singapore crashed into the Java Sea in December 2014, killing all 162 people aboard.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency released images of what appeared to be wreckage and personal belongings recovered off West Java Province. An image taken from a vessel also showed an oil slick, likely from the crashed plane.

Jakarta-based television network Kompas TV, reporting from where the plane is believed to have crashed, said one body has been found.

The aircraft was relatively new. It began operating in mid-August and was deemed airworthy, the carrier said, adding that the flight's captain had 6,000 flying hours and copilot 5,000.

Lion Air said it will "cooperate with all related institutions to deal with this matter."

Dozens of relatives of the flight's passengers gathered at a crisis center set up at the Jakarta airport to seek answers from the authorities, some breaking into tears.

Lion Air, founded in 1999, started service the following year. It flies to both domestic and overseas destinations.

The carrier has been involved in a series of incidents, including minor accidents, with crew once caught taking drugs before flying. It has also been criticized for frequent flight delays.

Despite its blemished reputation, many people still prefer to fly with the low-cost carrier as its fares are among the cheapest in the industry.

Bangka Island is a tourist spot known for snorkeling and other marine activities. Pangkalpinang, the Lion Air flight's destination, is located about 450 kilometers north of the capital Jakarta. (Kyodo)