Jakarta, Oct 29 (IANS) An Indonesian Lion Air Boeing passenger plane carrying 189 people and flown by Indian captain Bhavye Suneja crashed into the Java Sea on Monday shortly after taking off from here, with authorities saying they have found no survivor.
The Boeing 737, JT 610, disappeared from the radar 13 minutes after take off from Jakarta airport at 6.20 a.m. while heading for Pangkal Pinang on the Indonesian island Bangka. Flight data showed it made a sudden, sharp dive into the sea, the Jakarta Post reported.
No survivors were found, said a spokesman of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency.
The aircraft, manufactured this year, was commanded by Captain Suneja, with co-pilot Harvino, according to a spokesman of the airline. Authorities said before the crash, the pilot had made a request to return to base.
The Guardian reported that Suneja was from New Delhi and was living in Jakarta with his wife.
Of the 189 on board, two were pilots and six were flight attendants, the National Transportation Safety Commission said in a statement cited by the Jakarta Post. Twenty Indonesian Finance Department officials were also on the flight.
A search and rescue effort was launched for the plane that crashed into the waters of Karawang, about 30-35 metres deep.
“Several pieces of Lion Air JT 610 aircraft (were found),” Head of the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management Sutopo Purwo Nugroho tweeted.
Rescuers released footage of debris and personal items floating in the water at the crash site, including handbags, clothing, mobile phones, ID cards and driver licences. Plane seats were also sighted among the debris.
“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” Search and Rescue Agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told reporters. “We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm.”
According to the Guardian, Suneja’s parents learned of the disaster in the morning and were booked to fly to Jakarta on Monday night. Suneja lived in Jakarta with his wife – they were married two years ago.
“He loved his job, he was very much interested in it,” the daily quoted Kapish Gandhi, the cousin of the pilot, as saying. “We saw it on the television this morning and didn’t know whether to believe it.”
According to the airline spokesman, Suneja had clocked more than 6,000 flight hours while his co-pilot had more than 5,000 flight hours to his credit.
Lion Air chief executive Edward Sirait said the plane reported a technical problem during its previous flight from Denpasar to Jakarta on Sunday night, but that was resolved before it took off on Monday morning.
“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, Sirait said Lion Air was still trying to verify the information. He said Lion Air opened up crisis centres for family members of victims at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport and at the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport.
According to Jakarta-based Elshinta radio, a tugboat had notified the Tanjung Priok Port that it spotted a plane crashing into the water on Monday morning.
Around 160 search and rescue personnel in several ships and helicopters were at the suspected accident site to try to locate survivors and the plane’s black boxes, which will serve later to clarify what happened, Efe news reported.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said: “I will continue to pray that victims can be found immediately.”
The airline spokesman said the Boeing 737 MAX plane was manufactured this year and had been operated by Lion Air since August 15.