Traffic saved Indonesian man from doomed Lion Air flight

A man running late to the airport is grateful to have missed a Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea carrying 189 passengers and crew.

Just a couple minutes into the flight, pilots made a "return to base" request.

"Several parts of human bodies and things have been found on the scene", Yusuf Latief, head of communication for media of the national search and rescue office, told Xinhua by phone.

After receiving friends and relatives who rushed to their New Delhi home upon hearing news of the crash, the parents of Suneja left for the Indonesian capital.

"We don't dare to say what the facts are, or are not, yet", he said.

The search and rescue agency said the flight ended in waters off West Java that are 30 to 35 meters (100 to 115 feet) deep.

Debris from the crashed Lion Air plane in the sea off the coast of Tanjung Pakis Karawang, Indonesia, 29 October 2018.

The carrier acknowledged that the jet had previously been grounded for unspecified repairs.

"Hopefully they will be able to locate the (cockpit) voice data recorders". At least a dozen ambulances were parked at a nearby beach.

Mr Aji said the location of the plane hull has not been identified yet.

Distraught friends and relatives prayed and hugged each other as they waited at Pangkal Pinang's airport and at a crisis center set up at Jakarta's airport.

"This morning he called asking about our youngest son", said a sobbing Ermayati, referring to her 45-year-old husband Muhammed Syafii, who was on board.

At the search agency's headquarters in Jakarta, family members arrived, hoping desperately for news.

Privately owned budget carrier Lion Air was founded in 1999 and its only fatal accident to date was when a MD-82 crashed upon landing at Solo City in 2004, killing 25 of the 163 people on board, according to the Flight Safety Foundation's Aviation Safety Network.

"Indonesia does stand out. they did have some really bad accidents in the past, " Ranter said.

He said he was informed about his lucky escape only after he arrived in Pangkal Pinang on another flight at 9.40am.

The very first global delivery went to Lion Air's Malaysian subsidiary, Malindo Air.

The pilot and co-pilot had more than 11,000 hours of flying time between them and had recent medical checkups and drug testing, it added.

"We can not give any comment at this moment", Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air Group, told Reuters, adding that a news conference was planned for later on Monday.

"Engineers in Jakarta received notes and did another fix before it took off" yesterday, he said, calling it "normal procedure".

Boeing Co. said it was "deeply saddened" by the crash and was prepared to provide technical assistance to Indonesia's crash probe.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was flown for the first time on August 15, and the airline said it had been certified as airworthy before yesterday's flight by an engineer who was a specialist in Boeing models.

Under global rules, the US National Transportation Safety Board will automatically assist with the inquiry, backed up by technical advisers from Boeing and US-French engine maker CFM worldwide, co-owned by General Electric and Safran.

Malindo Air, a Malaysian subsidiary of Jakarta-based Lion Air, was the first airline to begin using the 737 Max 8 a year ago.

Lion Air flight 610 (JT610) took off from Jakarta at 23:21 UTC and was destined for Pangkal Pinang, around an hour away.

It was not clear how many people were on board the flight.

A year earlier poor maintenance and the pilots' inadequate response was blamed for the crash of an AirAsia plane crashed with the loss of 162 lives.

Two babies and one child were among the people onboard the JT 610 flight, which crashed into the sea off Karawang of West Java province shortly after taking off from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta global airport, according to the Transport Ministry.

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  • Eleanor Harrison