International

Searchers find debris, body parts from missing Indonesian jet

Indonesian search teams on Sunday found debris and body parts believed to be from a passenger plane that went missing minutes after taking off from Jakarta airport with 62 people on board.

Dpa news said pieces of the aircraft, life vests, and parts with the plane’s registration number were among the debris found in the Java Sea, according to Indonesian military chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto.

“We received a report from the diving team that underwater visibility was good, allowing for the discovery of a number of aircraft parts,” he said.

The domestic flight operated by budget carrier Sriwijaya Air had been en route to Pontianak on Borneo island in what was supposed to be a 90-minute journey when it went missing on Saturday afternoon.

The National Search and Rescue Agency said its workers had collected three bags of aircraft parts and five bags of human remains.

“The body parts will be sent to the police disaster victim identification unit for examination,” the agency said in a statement.

Police have started taking DNA samples and collecting ante-mortem data from relatives of the victims, Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus said.

Dozens of warships, boats and aircraft have been deployed to help locate the missing aircraft and recover victims, officials said.

Officials said late Saturday it was likely the plane had plunged into the sea between Laki Island and Lancang Island in the Thousand Island group off Jakarta.

The cause of the crash is not known, but data from the Swedish internet service Flightradar24 show the plane suddenly lost speed and altitude about four minutes after take-off.

Sriwijaya Air said the flight was delayed for 30 minutes because of poor weather.

Vivi, a woman whose husband was on the Sriwijaya Air flight, told local media that he was supposed to fly with another airline but was transferred.

“I hope my husband is alive and well. Please pray for him,” she told the Suara.com news site.

Saturday’s crash was the second major accident involving an Indonesian airline in just over two years.

In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX belonging to Indonesia’s largest budget carrier Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board.

The US Department of Justice said on Thursday that Boeing has agreed to pay more than 2.5 billion dollars to settle criminal charges over allegations of fraud and conspiracy in the wake of the Lion Air crash and another in Ethiopia in 2019. The two crashes killed 346 people.

Boeing had been suspected of rushing its 737 MAX model series to market. The main cause of the accidents was considered to be faulty control software that directed the jets towards the ground.

The Sriwijaya Air flight was not a MAX model, but an older Boeing 737-500.

Indonesia, which is made up of thousands of islands, experienced a boom in low-cost carriers following the liberalization of the aviation industry in the early 2000s.

In 2018, the European Union lifted a ban on Indonesian airlines, which was imposed in 2007 following a string of deadly air accidents.

Several Indonesian airlines, including flag carrier Garuda, were taken off the EU’s ban list in 2009 after steps were taken to improve safety.

In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization ranked Indonesia’s aviation safety as above global average, with a compliance rate of 81.15 per cent.