Doomed Lion Air Plane Had 'Air Speed' Problems On Prior Flight: Officials

Indonesian divers resumed a search on Tuesday for an airliner that crashed with 189 people on board, as “pinger locators” tried to zero in on its cockpit recorders.

The Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane that crashed with 189 people on board on Monday had technical problems on its previous flight, including “unreliable airspeed”, an official of Indonesia’s national transportation safety committee said on Tuesday.

“There were technical issues, one of them was indeed unreliable airspeed,” committee deputy chief Haryo Satmiko told a news conference, referring to problems with the plane on a flight from Denpasar, Bali, to Jakarta on Sunday evening.

Police personnel identify recovered belongings. Image: Reuters

“The suspected cause of the accident is still being investigated and it is making us all curious what could have caused it,” he said.

He said the committee has a recording of the conversation between the pilot of JT610 before it crashed and the control tower at Jakarta, as well as input from the public, including comments on social media.

Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, has a patchy safety record. With the now almost certain prospect of all on board having died, the crash is set to rank as its second-worst air disaster.

Ground staff lost contact with flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air 13 minutes after the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft took off early on Monday from the airport in Jakarta, the capital, on its way to the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang.

“Hopefully this morning we can find the wreckage or fuselage,” Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of a national transport safety panel, told Reuters, adding that underwater “pinger locators”, including equipment from Singapore, were being deployed to help find the aircraft’s black boxes.

Relatives of passengers cry at Bhayangkara R. Said Sukanto hospital. Image: Reuters

The priority is finding the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder to help determine the cause of the disaster, safety experts said.

Although divers stopped searching overnight, sonar vessels and an underwater drone kept up the hunt for the wreckage, where many victims were feared trapped, officials said.

Rescue team members prepare to dive at the crash site. Image: Reuters

Only debris and body parts have been found off the shore of Karawang, east of Jakarta.

A Reuters witness on a boat at the crash site, saw teams of divers in black rubber suits enter the slightly choppy water from six inflatable boats.

Rescue teams head to the crash location. Image: Reuters

“The visibility is not good as it’s very overcast,” a special forces officer said, noting the dive team had started just after dawn and been down to a depth of 35 meters.

Underwater footage released by the national search and rescue agency showed relatively poor visibility. In all, 35 vessels are helping to search.

Wreckage from Lion Air flight JT610. Image: Reuters

Yusuf Latif, the spokesman of the search and rescue agency, had said on Monday finding survivors “would be a miracle”, judging by the condition of the recovered debris and body parts.

MORE: What Caused the Lion Air Plane Crash?

READ MORE: No Survivors Expected As Rescue Crews Continue Horrific Search

Lion Air said human remains were collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the site, in waters about 30 to 35 meters (98 to 115 ft) deep roughly 15 km (nine miles) off the coast.

READ MORE: Indonesian Plane Asked To Return To Base Before Crashing Into Sea

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Rescue workers lay out recovered belongings believe to be from the crashed flight. Image: Reuters

Officers at Jakarta’s port picked through personal belongings retrieved from the sea, including wallets, backpacks and papers, in a bid to help identify their owners.

Dozens of relatives gathered at a police hospital where body bags were brought for forensic doctors to try to identify victims.

Tents setup in the search and rescue operation. Image: Reuters

Police were taking saliva swabs from family members of the missing for DNA tests and also seeking details on body markings like tatoos or birthmarks on the passengers.