BANGKOK – A passenger plane carrying more than 60 people crashed into the Java Sea on Saturday, a few minutes after taking off from the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Indonesian officials said.
The Indonesian Ministry of Transport said the last contact with the plane, Sriwijaya Air Flight 182, was made at 2:40 p.m. local time. The Boeing 737-524 was destined for the city of Pontianak on the island of Borneo. There were 62 people on board, according to an official from Sriwijaya Air, an Indonesian airline based in Jakarta.
Four minutes after take off in heavy rain, the 26-year-old aircraft lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than 60 seconds, according to Flightradar24, the flight tracking service.
The Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency said it found debris in waters northwest of Jakarta that it believed could have come from the wreckage of the plane, but said the darkness hindered the search. The area where the debris was found is known as the Thousand Islands.
The aviation sector in Indonesia, a developing country with thousands of islands, has long been plagued by problems faced with poor security data and the rapid growth of low-cost airlines.
In 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea with 189 people on board after the Boeing-designed antistall system of the 737 Max jetliner malfunctioned. Another 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia in March 2019 after a similar faulty activation of the antistall system, which resulted in the worldwide grounding of the entire Max fleet for almost two years.
On Thursday, the U.S. government announced that Boeing would pay more than $ 2.5 billion to reach an agreement with the Department of Justice related to the antistall software used in the 737 Max.
Regarding Saturday’s flight, Sriwijaya Air said in a preliminary statement that “management is still communicating and investigating this matter and will make an official statement immediately after receiving the actual information.”
The airline, Indonesia’s third largest airline, which started operations in 2003, has never had a fatal crash before.
The country’s Aviation Safety Commission said it was on alert and the Minister of Transport had gone to Jakarta International Airport. Patrol boats combed the waters in which the plane was believed to have crashed. “Whenever we hear this kind of news, we get ready,” said Ony Suryo Wibowo, an investigator with the Indonesian National Road Safety Committee, on Saturday. “We collect all the information we can get.”