Search and rescue crews may have located the wreckage of an Indonesian jetliner that crashed into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta early Monday morning.
Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said Wednesday that authorities “strongly believe” they have pinpointed the resting place of Lion Air Flight JT610, which disappeared from radar screens after taking off on a flight to nearby Bangka-Belitung island. Navy officer Haris Djoko Nugroho told an Indonesian television station that a 22-meter-long object was discovered late Tuesday night at a depth of more than 30 meters. Nugroho said divers will be sent to inspect the object after they conduct a side-scan sonar to get more detailed images.
Locating the wreckage will put search crews one step closer to recovering the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorders, known as the “black boxes,” which will provide crucial information on why the pilots asked to return to the airport shortly after takeoff.
All 189 passengers and crew were killed in the crash. Divers taking part in the search and recovery efforts have recovered enough human remains from the crash site to fill as many as 48 body bags.
The crash is the first one involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8, a new fuel-efficient version of the legendary passenger jet. Representatives with the U.S.-based aviation company are flying to Indonesia to meet with officials with budget airline Lion Air, which has ordered 50 of the new 737 MAX 8 planes at a cost of $6.2 billion. Lion Air chief Edward Sirait told reporters Monday that the aircraft, which had only been in service for two months, suffered a technical problem during a flight from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta the night before, but was resolved according to procedure.
Indonesia’s transport ministry has ordered an inspection of all the new 737 MAX 8 jets. It has also suspended Lion Air’s technical director and several technicians who cleared the plane to fly.
Monday’s crash is another black mark on Indonesia’s fast-growing aviation sector, which has acquired a reputation for poor safety oversight. The country’s airlines have previously been banned from operating in the United States and European Union.