The Indonesian military said on Wednesday it may have located the wreckage of the Lion Air plane that crashed at sea with 189 people on board.
The Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8, which went into service only a few months ago, disappeared in the Java Sea on Monday. Shortly before, the crew had requested air traffic control permission to return to Jakarta, its starting point.
Hadi Tjahjanto, the head of the Indonesian army, said the aircraft was probably located by sonars. “We really believe we have determined the coordinates of the fuselage of flight JT 610,” he told reporters in Jakarta.
The authorities are conducting searches in deep waters of 60 to 80 feet, and if they have excluded the possibility of finding survivors, they hope to recover the two black boxes of the aircraft.
For this, a thousand people were mobilized, including dozens of divers, as well as helicopters and boats.
The relief workers have the macabre task of separating the human remains from the debris of the aircraft and the personal belongings of the victims.
Nearly 50 mortuary bags containing human limbs have been filled, according to the authorities. The remains are sent to the hospital for DNA testing.
“He was the best husband in the world,” said Ningsi Ayorbaba of her husband Ferdinand Paul, who was on board. “We had planned to celebrate our 15 years of marriage in April. Today, I bring DNA samples. ”
Representatives of the American aircraft manufacturer will meet those of Lion Air Wednesday, while Jakarta ordered an inspection of all Boeing 737 MAX.
The aircraft was bound for Pangkal Pingang, a transit area for tourists wishing to enjoy the beaches of the neighboring island of Belitung.
The Minister of Transport made the unusual decision to order the dismissal of Lion Air personnel.
“Today, we are going to relieve Lion’s technical director of his duties and replace him with someone else, as well as technicians” who have given the go-ahead to take off the aircraft, Budi Karya Sumadi said. .
According to Lion Air, the aircraft was commissioned in August. The pilot and co-pilot had more than 11,000 flight hours and had recently undergone medical examinations.
The company acknowledged that the aircraft had malfunctioned on a previous flight. Questions arise about the possibility of defects specific to this new aircraft model, including possible problems with altitude and speed measurements.
“The big issue here is that a lot of American companies have this plane,” Stephen Wright, an aviation expert at Leeds University, told AFP. “Is there (a problem) that could affect other devices?”
In any case, the accident aggravates the insecurity of Indonesia’s growing aviation sector. Indonesian companies were once banned from European and American skies.
The Southeast Asian archipelago, with 17,000 islands and islets, is highly dependent on air links and accidents are common.
The co-founder of the archipelago’s main low-cost carrier, Rusdi Kirana, now ambassador to Malaysia, said he met the families of the passengers, speaking of a crisis “exhausting and sad for everyone”.
“My company is the worst in the world, but we have no choice,” he said in an interview in 2015.
Lion Air has been involved in several incidents. The worst, in 2004, a runway in Solo (Central Java), had killed 26 people.
The company recently announced the purchase of 50 Boeing 737 MAX 10s for $ 6.24 billion. Managing Director Daniel Putut said she had “many questions” for the American aircraft manufacturer and would discuss the 737 MAXs whose delivery is pending, according to the Indonesian news website tirto.id.
Boeing had suspended the release of the 737 MAX last year just before its first commercial delivery, citing an engine problem.
Boeing and the US Federal Transportation Safety Agency (NTSB) are participating in the investigation.