Indonesian plane feared crashed after losing contact

JAKARTA (AFP) – An Indonesian budget airline plane with 62 people on board is suspected to have crashed into the sea shortly after the Boeing 737 took off from Jakarta airport yesterday, authorities said.

Flight tracking data showed the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged into a steep dive about four minutes after it left Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Sixty-two passengers and crew were on board, including 10 children, the nation’s Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters.

The suspected crash site is near tourist islands just off the coast of Indonesia’s sprawling capital.

The plane took off yesterday afternoon and a search and rescue operation began with no official results available last night.

Indonesian soldiers stand near a crisis centre set up following a report that a Sriwijaya Air passenger jet has lost contact with air traffic controllers after take off, at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP

“We deployed our team, boats and sea riders to the location suspected to be where it went down after losing contact,” senior official at the agency Bambang Suryo Aji told reporters.

Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 was bound for Pontianak on Indonesia’s section of Borneo island, about 90 minutes flying time over the Java Sea.

“I have four family members on the flight – my wife and my three children,” Yaman Zai said as he sobbed at Pontianak airport.

“They haven’t arrived. They’re not here,” he was heard saying as he spoke on his mobile phone.

Data from FlightRadar24 said the plane reached an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet before dropping suddenly to 250 feet. It then lost contact with air traffic control.

“Sriwijaya Air flight #SJ182 lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about four minutes after departure from Jakarta,” the tracking agency said on its Twitter account.

Broadcaster Kompas TV quoted local fishermen as saying they had found debris near islands just off the coast of the capital Jakarta, but it could not be immediately confirmed as having belonged to the missing jet.