Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 – a Boeing 737-500 – was heading from Jakarta to the town of Pontianak on the Indonesian island of Borneo, when it lost contact at 2:40 p.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET) , 11 nautical miles north of Jakarta’s Soekarno – Hatta International Airport. Four minutes after the start of the flight and in the midst of heavy rain, the plane fell 10,000 feet in less than a minute before disappearing from radar, according to the global flight tracking service Flightradar24.
Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said it found several debris believed to have come from the missing plane, but bad weather and poor visibility hampered searches overnight .
“Currently our staff are already on the ground and have found several parts of the plane, and the obstacle we face today is poor visibility,” said operations and preparation deputy Bambang Suryo Aji. during a virtual press conference, according to the Indonesian news agency. Antara.
The research is focused on the islands of Laki and Lancang, known as the Thousand Islands chain, about 20 miles northwest of Jakarta. Some 28 ships, five helicopters and two planes are deployed as part of a joint effort between the Indonesian Navy, police, coast guard and the Ministry of Transport. Navy official Abdul Rasyid said the Indonesian navy had sent 10 ships to surrounding waters off Laki Island and the chief of the armed forces would visit the search area on Sunday morning.
Hadi said the coordinates were determined by radar tracking and last contact with the plane before it crashed into the sea. Navy divers have been deployed to search for the wreckage.
In addition, teams from the National Transport Safety Committee (KNKT) opened an investigation into the cause of the accident.
“We sent two investigators from the Indonesian Sea Search and Rescue Agency to conduct a locate investigation. We need to find more information on the location, for example to determine what equipment we’re going to use regarding the underwater terrain we have, ”Suryanto Cahyono told CNN.
Investigators were also sent to the airport’s air traffic control, the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency and Sriwijaya Airlines to gather information.
Meanwhile, Jakarta police have set up a command post at Kramat Jati Police Hospital to identify victims of the crash and search for their family members, Indonesian news agency Antara reported on Sunday.
Although the wreckage of the plane – including an emergency exit slide – was found in the sea at the suspected crash site, authorities have yet to report the recovery of human remains.
Witnesses describe an explosion
Three Lancang Island fishermen told CNN they heard an explosion and a sudden sudden wave as the plane went missing.
“I heard a very loud explosion. I thought it was a bomb or a big thunder. Then we saw the big wave, about 2 meters high, hit our boat, ”said Hendrik Mulyadi.
Hendrik’s colleague, Solihin, described the sound as “a bomb on the water”. They said it was dark and raining at the time.
The men said they did not see a plane crash into the sea, but smelled fuel and spotted debris. The men said they returned to land to report their experiences to the police.
The missing plane was carrying 50 passengers – 43 adults and 7 children – as well as 12 crew members, according to Indonesian Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi.
The aircraft, registered PK CLC, was a 26-year-old Boeing 737-500, according to Flightradar24. Sriwijaya Airlines CEO Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane was in good condition before taking off.
In a statement, Boeing said, “Our hearts are with the crew, passengers and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and are ready to support them during this difficult time. ”
Sriwijaya Air, a low-cost airline and Indonesia’s third largest carrier, carries more than 950,000 passengers per month from its hub in Jakarta to 53 destinations in Indonesia and three countries in the region, according to the website of the company.
In June 2018, it was removed from the European Union’s list of banned air carriers, 11 years after its inclusion on this list.
A worrying record
This weekend’s crash is the latest to shake Indonesia’s booming airline industry.
In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in Indonesia’s Java Sea after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. The Boeing 737 Max 8 plane was to make a one-hour trip to Pangkal Pinang on Bangka Island.
The improper design and certification of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, coupled with an overwhelmed flight crew grappling with a faulty system they could not properly identify, led to the crash, a report says. October 2019 from the Indonesian authorities.
In 2014, Indonesian AirAsia flight 8501 claimed the lives of 162 people on board after it crashed in the Java Sea, while flying from Surabaya to Singapore.
And the year before, Lion Air had been involved in two accidents. A Boeing 737 missed the runway on landing and crashed into the sea near Bali, forcing passengers to swim or wade to safety, while another Boeing 737 collided with a cow while ‘he landed at Jalaluddin Airport in Gorontalo on the island of Sulawesi.
In 2007, the European Union banned 51 Indonesian airlines from entering its airspace after a Garuda Indonesia plane with 140 people on board overshot the Yogyakarta runway in March and caught fire, killing 21 people in edge.
Standards have since improved, with all Indonesian airlines removed from this blacklist by June 2018.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 13,000 islands, has experienced a domestic aviation boom in recent years, with passenger traffic tripling between 2005 and 2017, according to Australian consulting firm CAPA-Center for Aviation.
The country of 270 million people relies heavily on air travel to commute between the islands of the archipelago, which stretches over 3,000 miles, roughly the same distance between London and New York.
Jamaluddin Masrur reported from Jakarta. CNN’s Lynn Franco, Kara Fox and Angela Dewan contributed reporting.