Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry says Sriwijaya Air lost contact with one of its passenger planes Saturday carrying 62 people shortly after takeoff from Jakarta.
Flight SJ182 was en route to Pontianak, the capital of the West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo, the ministry said.
Flightradar24, the flight tracking service, said the Boeing 737 “lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta.”
“The missing plane is currently under investigation and under coordination with the National Search and Rescue Agency and the National Transportation Safety Committee,” government spokesman Adita Irawati said in a statement.
Indonesian Minister for Transportation Budi Karya told reporters the National Search and Rescue Agency and the military deployed ships to search for the plane.
The minister said the plane took off at 2:36 p.m. local time but the air traffic controller could no longer contact it four minutes later. “Within seconds the plane disappeared from the radar,” he added.
Indonesian navy and air force sources told VOA that “at least seven ships have been deployed to location, while some aircraft ready to be operated from Sultan Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi and Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta tomorrow morning.”
The airline’s chief executive, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, told reporters that the plane’s takeoff was delayed 30 minutes because of heavy rain.
A local fisherman identified only as Mahyudin on Pancang Island near the location where contact was lost with the plane said in an interview with VOA that “some fishermen told me they hear a loud bang, like an explosion, in the sea around 2:30 or 2:40 p.m.
“It was raining and quite dark. They came home around 3.30 p.m. and as soon as I got their report, we call local police. They [fishermen] also saw plane debris near their boat.” He added that local police set up emergency tents on the Island.
An official with the search and rescue agency, Bambang Suryo Aji, confirmed that debris from the plane had been found after initial reports from the local post command on Lancang Island. He said the debris will be sent to the National Commission on Safety Transportation.
In a virtual press conference, the head of the National Commission on Safety Transportation, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said he is still gathering all information and “will start searching for the black box tomorrow morning.”
VOA radio affiliates in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, report that some family members have come to Supadio Airport to find out more information regarding the plane and a crisis center has been set up. Some family members could not hide the sorrow and were seen crying, and screaming at the center’s staff.
Wayne Lee and Fern Robinson contributed to this story.
Voice of America – English