Lion Air crash: Divers and underwater robots deployed after 189 killed in Indonesia plane disaster

31-Oct-2018 Intellasia | The Independent | 6:00 AM Print This Post

World leaders and the Pope sent their condolences to bereaved families in Indonesia after a passenger plane plunged into the sea off Indonesia soon after take-off, killing all 189 people on board.

An investigation has been launched after the budget-airline jet, which was new but had experienced a “technical issue” on its previous flight, came down near Jakarta.

Rescuers in inflatable boats had retrieved 10 intact bodies, various body parts, pieces of aircraft and personal belongings from the ocean.

They worked through the night, sending 24 body bags to identification experts while the airline flew dozens of grieving relatives to the country’s capital.

Search and rescue chiefs said they were not expecting to find any survivors from the accident, which is the country’s second-worst plane crash.

The disaster renewed questions about the safety of Indonesia’s airline industry.

Data from the plane showed erratic speed, altitude and direction in the minutes after takeoff. The same thing happened on the plane’s previous flight, according to Aviation Safety Network.

The new-generation Boeing jet took off at around 6.20am Indonesian time and was on a short-haul flight to Pangkal Pinang near Sumatra. But just two minutes into the flight it dropped more than 500ft and veered to one side.

It began climbing again but the pilots asked to turn back to base shortly before losing contact with air-traffic control, said a spokesman for Indonesia’s air-navigation authorities.

Contact was then lost and it crashed just 13 minutes into the flight.

Low-cost airline Lion Air said the plane was carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two babies, and eight crew members. At least 23 Indonesian government officials, an Indian pilot and an Italian man were also on board.

About 300 people including police officers, divers and soldiers spent the day working against strong currents in waters up to 35 metres deep, using underwater robots to search for survivors, officials said.

Distraught family members waiting for news at airports struggled to comprehend the sudden loss of loved ones in the crash of the two-month-old plane flown by experienced pilots in fine weather.

The operations director of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, Bambang Suryo Aji, said he no longer expected to find any survivors.

After the search teams halted their work for the night, sonar vessels continued hunting for the fuselage, where many of the victims were believed to be trapped.

Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president, said he had ordered the National Commission for Transportation Safety to begin an investigation immediately.

EU president Jean-Claude Juncker has written to President Widodo on behalf of the EU Commission, offering European help.

His letter to Widodo read: “I commend the efforts of your emergency services, and assure you that the relevant European authorities are ready to provide any necessary assistance, should you request it.”

Russia’s Vladimir Putin was among the world leaders who sent messages of sympathy.

The crash is the second-worst in the country, after a flight crashed in the city of Medan in 1997, killing 234 people.

Indonesia has one of the worst reputations for safety in the world. The country’s airlines were removed from an EU blacklist only four months ago, and have in the past been banned from American airspace as well.

Australia’s government has ordered its officials to avoid flying on Lion Air or its subsidiary airlines after the disaster.

The European Commission said it had no immediate plans to ban Lion Air again.

A Lion Air aircraft crashed in 2004 during landing, killing 25 of the 163 people on board.


Category: Indonesia

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