Lion Air flight with 189 aboard had sought return to base before losing contact

Lion Air flight

A plane carrying 189 people from Jakarta to another Indonesian city crashed into the sea on Monday, prompting a desperate search for survivors and questions about why the aircraft went down despite clear skies.

Lion Air Flight JT-610 had been flying north from the capital, Jakarta, to the city of Pangkal Pinang on the island of Bangka when it went missing. The crash is another setback for Indonesia’s fast-growing aviation sector, which has been troubled for years by safety problems.

The national search and rescue agency said a tugboat crew saw the plane crash in Karawang Bay northeast of Jakarta, officials said. Slamet Waluyo, the Karawang police chief, confirmed to the Indonesian news channel Metro TV that the aircraft had crashed.

A search and rescue effort was underway for the Boeing 737-800, which departed Jakarta at about 6:20 a.m.

Officials said on Monday that the plane was carrying 189 passengers and crew members, and that rescue workers had arrived at the crash site, two kilometers, or about 1¼ miles, south of the aircraft’s last reported coordinates. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the country’s disaster relief agency, posted photographs on Twitter on Monday of debris being recovered.

The aviation website Flight Tracker said the flight had been scheduled to arrive at 7:20 a.m. in Pangkal Pinang, on an island chain off Sumatra. Another aviation website, Flightradar24, shows the plane’s flight pathending in the sea near Jakarta on the island of Java.

The National Search and Rescue Agency said it had not yet found any survivors.

As of late Monday morning, the cause of the crash was not clear.

Flightradar24 said on Twitter that the plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, had been delivered to Lion Air in August.

Soerjanto Thanjono, the chief of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, told reporters at a news briefing on Monday that the weather was sunny in the general area and had not been a problem.

Boeing said on Twitter that it was “aware of reports of an airplane accident and is closely monitoring the situation.”

Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air, a budget Indonesian airline, said Monday morning that he could not yet comment on the accident. “We are trying to collect all the information and data,” he said.

Air travel is an especially convenient way to travel in Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands.

Passenger traffic in the country tripled from 2005 to 2017, to nearly 97 million, according to the CAPA-Centre for Aviation, a consultancy based in Australia. As of last year, Lion Air controlled 51 percent of the domestic market.

But along with that rapid growth, Indonesia’s airline industry has suffered from a troubling air safety record, and several of its airlines have been barred over the years from flying in Europe and the United States.

In 2014, AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed on the way to Singapore, from the Indonesian city of Surabaya, in stormy weather. All seven crew and 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, were killed.

Lion Air has also been at the center of several accidents.

In 2004, a Lion Air flight from Jakarta to Surakarta hydroplaned, overshot the runway and crashed into a cemetery as it stopped in the city of Solo, killing 25 people on board.

Two Lion Air planes also crashed at Indonesian airports in 2002 and 2006, although no one was killed in either accident.

And in 2013, a Lion Air plane missed a runway and crashed into the ocean off the Indonesian resort island of Bali, forcing passengers to swim ashore from the wreckage. That crash, which did not kill anyone, came a month after the airline announced a $24 billion order for 234 Airbus planes.


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