A Sriwijaya Air passenger jet on Saturday lost control with air traffic controllers after taking off from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, at 1:56 pm. The Boeing 737-500, on a domestic flight to Pontianak on Borneo island with 62 on board, lost contact around 2:40 pm, said Adita Irawati, the spokesperson of the Indonesian transportation ministry.
The plane is suspected to have crashed into the sea with flight tracking data showing the jet plunged into a steep dive several minutes after taking off.
According to a statement released by the airline, the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province and among the 62 on board, 56 were passengers and six crew members. Irawati said that a search and rescue operation is underway in coordination with the National Search and Rescue Agency and the National Transportation Safety Committee.
Local media reports said fishermen spotted metal objects believed to be parts of a plane on Saturday afternoon in the Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta. Television footage showed relatives and friends of people aboard the plane weeping, praying and hugging each other as they waited at Jakarta’s airport and Pontianak’s airport.
Indonesia, the worlds largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.
In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.
Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.
(With inputs from agencies)