Indonesian authorities expect no survivors from a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on its way to Pangkal Pinang on the Indonesian island of Bangka on Monday. The Boeing narrowbody, delivered to the airline just three months ago, carried 181 passengers and eight crewmembers, including 20 Indonesian finance ministry officials returning from Jakarta to their posts in Pangkal Pinang after spending the weekend in the capital for a public holiday.
Indonesian national search-and-rescue agency Basarnas reported it received word of the accident from Jakarta air traffic control at 6:50 a.m. local time. The authority has dispatched divers with underwater equipment to the site, some 34 nautical miles from the Basarnas search-and-rescue office in Jakarta.
In a statement, Boeing said it stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation and directed any inquiries to Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC). The pilots reportedly asked to return to Jakarta just minutes after takeoff for Pangkal Pinang, and ATC granted the request.
The 737 Max, one of 11 in the Lion Air fleet, had clocked just 800 hours in the air before the accident. Lion Air CEO Edward Sirait said the airplane had encountered a “technical issue” on a previous flight, but maintenance crews resolved the apparent problem.
Indonesia’s checkered airline safety history has earned it close scrutiny from the world’s air safety authorities. Just this past June the European Commission removed Indonesia from the so-called EU blacklist, imposed in 2007 due to “unaddressed safety concerns.” The ban effectively prohibited all 51 Indonesian airlines from operating to the EU and required travel agents in Europe to inform passengers planning to travel in Indonesia of the country’s poor safety record. However, over the past few years, the EC removed seven Indonesian operators—including Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia and its regional operation Citilink—from the list.
Australian authorities have advised government officials and contractors against flying on Lion Air pending a review of the circumstances surrounding the crash, an Australian government official told CNN.