Search teams scoured the sea off Indonesia on Tuesday for any signs of life and evidence to determine what brought down a Lion Air flight with 189 people on board.
Divers hunted for the main fuselage and deployed underwater beacons to trace the flight’s black box recorders in order to find out what caused one of the deadliest aviation incidents in Indonesia’s history.
The search was stopped for the night although sonar vessels and an underwater drone continued hunting for the downed airliner.
“Hopefully this morning we can find the wreckage or fuselage,” Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of Indonesia’s transport safety panel, told Reuters news agency.
Lion Air’s aeroplane was almost brand new though it crashed shortly after take-off from the airport in Jakarta after the pilot reported he needed to return the aircraft to the ground.
The Boeing 737 was flown for the first time on August 15, and the airline said it had been certified as airworthy before Monday’s flight by an engineer who is a specialist in Boeing models.
Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency said there was little hope of finding survivors. “[It] would be a miracle,” spokesman Yusuf Latif said.
The agency said on Tuesday that 10 intact bodies, as well as body parts, had been recovered.
Lion Air Chief Executive Edward Sirait said on Monday the plane had encountered an unspecified “technical issue” on its previous flight, which was from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta, but that it had been “resolved according to procedure”.
“We don’t dare to say what the facts are, or are not, yet,” he told reporters. “We are also confused about the why since it was a new plane.”
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliner was flying from the capital to the city of Pangkal Pinang at 1,113 metres above sea level when it lost contact with air traffic controllers.
The crash was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since an AirAsia flight plunged into the sea in December 2014, killing all 162 on board.
One of the passengers was 22-year-old Deryl Fida Febrianto, who got married just two weeks ago and was on his way to Pangkal Pinang to work on a cruise ship.
His wife, Lutfinani Eka Putri, 23, said her husband messaged her from the aircraft at 6:12am, sending her a photo from the plane, and at 6:15am he stopped replying to her messages.
They had grown up together, she told reporters, showing a picture of the smiling couple on their wedding day.
“When I saw the news, I matched the flight number with the ticket photo Deryl had sent,” she said. “I immediately started crying.”