‘Brand-new’ Lion Air passenger jet plunges into sea near Jakarta with nearly 200 people on board

  • Video report by ITV News reporter Martha Fairlie

No survivors are expected to be found after a Lion Air Boeing 737 passenger plane crashed into seas off Jakarta with 189 people on board.

The operations director at the agency, Bambang Suryo Aji, says the search effort is focusing on finding bodies.

He said six body bags have been used so far as human remains were recovered.

Aji said the location of the plane hull hasn't been identified yet. Waters where it sank are up to 30 metres (100 feet) deep.

The search is currently planned to last seven days and could be extended.

A Lion Air Boeing 737 passenger plane crashed into seas off Jakarta with 189 people on board Credit: ITV News

Divers are trying to locate the wreckage of the aircraft, which crashed in waters off West Java just 13 minutes after taking-off at 6.20am.

Data from FlightAware showed the aircraft had reached an altitude of only 5,200ft before crashing.

The airline said the brand-new aircraft, on an hour-and-10-minute flight to Pangkal Pinang on an island chain off Sumatra, was carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two babies, and eight crew members.

Distraught friends and relatives prayed and hugged each other as they waited for news at Pangkal Pinang’s airport, while others waited at the National Search and Rescue Agency’s headquarters in Jakarta

Relatives began to gather at the airport on Monday Credit: AP/Hadi Sutrisno

The agency’s deputy chief, Nugroho Budi Wiryanto, said some 300 people including soldiers, police and local fishermen are involved in the search.

Human remains have been recovered from plane crash, but the exact location of plane wreck has not yet been identified.

Feni, who uses a single name, said her soon to be married sister was on the flight, planning to meet relatives in Pangkal Pinang.

“We are here to find any information about my younger sister, her fiance, her in-law to be and a friend of them,” said Feni.

“We don’t have any information,” she said, as her father wiped tears from reddened eyes. “No one provided us with any information that we need. “We’re confused. We hope that our family is still alive."

Indonesia’s finance minister, Sri Mulyani, also arrived at the agency and met with its chief, seeking information about 20 finance ministry staff who were on the flight after attending a ministry event in Jakarta.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says he has ordered the National Commission for Transportation Safety to investigate crash of a Lion Air plane.

He said rescuers are making their best efforts to find victims and urged Indonesians "to keep on praying."

However, in a blow to the country's aviation safety record Australia's foreign affairs ministry says Australian government officials and contractors "have been instructed not to fly on Lion Air or their subsidiary airlines" following the crash.

The statement posted on the ministry's website said the decision will be reviewed when the findings of the crash investigation are clear.

It said its overall level of travel advice for Indonesia was unchanged from its recommendation to exercise a high degree of caution.

Indonesian airlines were barred in 2007 from flying to Europe because of safety concerns, though several were allowed to resume services in the following decade.

The ban was completely lifted in June this year.

The European Commission says it has no immediate plans to ban Indonesian airline Lion Air again.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 was delivered to Lion Air in mid-August and put in use within days. Credit: AP

The Boeing 737 Max 8 was delivered to Lion Air in mid-August and put in use within days, according to aviation website Flightradar24.

Malindo Air, a Malaysian subsidiary of Jakarta-based Lion Air, was the first airline to being using the 737 Max 8 last year.

The Max 8 replaced the similar 800 in the Chicago-based planemaker’s product line.

Boeing spokesman Paul Lewis says Boeing is “closely monitoring the situation” but did not provide details on the aircraft in question.

The pilot of Flight 610 had more than 6,000 flying hours, while the co-pilot had more than 5,000 hours.

The crash is the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea in December 2014, killing all 162 on board.

Lion Air, a discount carrier, is one of Indonesia’s youngest and biggest airlines, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.

In 2013, one of its Boeing 737-800 jets missed the runway while landing on the resort island of Bali, crashing into the sea without causing any fatalities among the 108 people on board.