An Indonesian aircraft with 189 people on board crashed into the sea and sank on Monday soon after taking off from the capital, Jakarta, on a domestic flight to a tin-mining region, officials said.
There was no sign of any survivors from Lion Air flight JT610, an almost new Boeing 737 MAX 8, and rescue officials said later on Monday they had recovered some human remains from the crash site, about 15 km (9 miles) off the coast.
The plane lost contact with ground officials shortly after its pilot had asked to turn back to base, about 13 minutes after it took off, officials said.
Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, although its safety record is patchy.
If all aboard have died, the crash would be the country’s second-worst air disaster since 1997, industry experts said.
“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” search and rescue agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference, adding that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter.
“We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm.”
At least 23 government officials, four employees of state tin miner PT Timah and 3 employees of a Timah subsidiary were on the plane. A Lion Air official said on Italian passenger and one Indian pilot were on board.
The plane went down in waters about 30 meters to 35 meters (98 to 115 ft) deep. Items such as handphones and life vests were found, along with the body parts.
Ambulances were lined up at Karawang, on the coast east of Jakarta and police were preparing rubber dinghies, a Reuters reporter said. Fishing boats were being used to help search.
Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air Group, told reporters the aircraft had a technical problem on a flight from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta but it had been “resolved according to procedure”.
Sirait declined to specify the nature of the issue but said none of its other aircraft of that model had the same problem. Lion had operated 11 Boeing 737 Max 8s and it had no plan to ground the rest of them, he said.
The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer’s workhorse single-aisle jet.
Privately owned Lion Air said the aircraft had been in operation since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having accumulated 11,000 hours of flying time.