Sriwijaya Airplane missing crash
A man stands near an LCD screen installed at a crisis center 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,Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. Image Credit: AP

A Sriwijaya Air plane crashed into the sea on Saturday minutes after taking off from Indonesia's capital Jakarta on a domestic flight with 62 people on board, and their fate was not known.

The Boeing 737-500, en route to Pontianak in West Kalimantan, disappeared from radar screens after taking off just after 2.30 p.m. (0730 GMT) - 30 minutes after the scheduled time because of heavy rain. Live flight tracking data showed the jet plunged into a steep dive just four minutes after take-off.

The Indonesian Navy as determined the coordinates of the plane and ships were deployed to the location, Navy official Abdul Rasyid said. "The coordinates have been found and have been given to all Navy vessels in the area," he told reporters.

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

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

Sriwijaya Air crash
People wait for news on their relatives who are on board of Sriwijaya Air passenger jet that lost contact with air traffic controllers after take off, at Soepadio International Airport in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 Image Credit: AP


The passenger jet reportedly had 62 people on board, including crew. "The total number of passengers was 50 along with 12 crew," Budi Karya Sumadi, the transport minister, told reporters, adding that the figure included seven children and three infants.

All those on board were Indonesian, Indonesia's transport safety committee said. Authorities did not say whether they believed there were survivors.

Distraught relatives waited at Pontianak, around 740 km (460 miles) from Jakarta. Yaman Zai, a father of three children who were aboard the plane with their mother, said that he was at the airport in Pontianak waiting for them, when he heard the news.

"I will never meet her again," he said, holding up a photo of his oldest daughter.

The jet was 27 years old

The nearly 27-year-old Boeing 737-500 was much older than Boeing's problem-plagued 737 MAX model, one of which crashed off Jakarta in late 2018, killing all 189 people aboard the Lion Air flight. Older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.

A Boeing spokeswoman said, "We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information".

Reliable tracking service Flightradar24 said the Boeing jet took off at 2:36 p.m. local time (0736 GMT) and climbed to reach 10,900 feet within four minutes. It then began a steep descent and stopped transmitting data 21 seconds later. Data from FlightRadar24 said the plane reached an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet (3,350 metres) before dropping to 250 feet. "Sriwijaya Air flight #SJ182 lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta," the tracking agency said on its official Twitter account.

A transport ministry spokeswoman said air traffic control at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport had asked the pilot why the plane was heading northwest instead of on its expected flight path just seconds before it disappeared.

Founded in 2003, Jakarta-based Sriwijaya Air group flies largely within Indonesia. Its fleet is comprised of Boeing 737 family and ATR 72-600 jets. While the company primarily serves domestic routes it does fly internationally to Penang, Malaysia and Dili, East Timor. The airline has a solid safety record until now, with no onboard casualties in four incidents recorded on the Aviation Safety Network database.

Reports of debris

Agus Haryono, a rescue agency official, told Reuters that a search and rescue team had found debris suspected to be from the plane in the waters north of Jakarta, but it had not been confirmed that it was from the flight. Sriwijaya Air, an Indonesian airline, said in a statement it is still gathering more detailed information regarding the flight before it can make a fuller statement.

Surachman, a local government official, told Kompas TV that fishermen found what appeared to be the wreckage. Other channels showed pictures of suspected wreckage. "We found some cables, a piece of jeans, and pieces of metal on the water," Zulkifli, a security official, told

Nurhasan, a fisherman in the area known as Thousand Islands, told local media that he and his crew had found several pieces of metal.

A Boeing spokeswoman said, "We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information".

The Boeing 737-500 that took off from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta international airport has a capacity of about 130. The budget airline said only it was investigating the incident.

A plane flying from Jakarta to Pontianak would spend most of the flight over the Java Sea. There was still no sign of the missing plane as night fell. The usual flight time is about 90 minutes. The aircraft was scheduled to take off from Jakarta at 1.40 p.m. local time, the FlightRadar24 website showed. Sriwijaya Air representatives couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Pontianak is a city on the island of Borneo, part of the Indonesian archipelago.

Transportation accidents in Indonesia

In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet slammed into the Java Sea about 12 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a routine one-hour flight.

That crash - and a subsequent fatal flight in Ethiopia - saw Boeing hit with $2.5 billion in fines over claims it defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which was grounded worldwide following the two deadly crashes.

Indonesia, the world's 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.

- AP, AFP, Bloomberg, Reuters