Indonesian Rescue Workers Believe Fuselage Of Crashed Plane Found

Indonesian search and rescue workers believe they have found the fuselage of a Lion Air passenger jet that crashed with 189 people on board, and are also trying to confirm the origin of an underwater “ping” signal.

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

There were no survivors.

Indonesia’s military chief said he believed the plane had been located, and a transport safety official said divers would be sent to confirm the origin of a “ping” signal picked up by a search and rescue team late on Tuesday.

“We strongly believe that we have found a part of the fuselage,” armed forces chief Hadi Tjahjanto told broadcaster TV One.

Relatives of passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 that crashed into the sea, cry at Depati Amir airport in Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Elza Elvia via REUTERS

Speaking on board the navy ship KRI Rigel, navy official Colonel Haris Djoko Nugroho told broadcaster TVOne that a 22-metre long object had been found in waters about 32 meters deep, and a sonar was being used to identify it.

Divers would also be sent to check, he said.

The Rigel has been searching in an area about 5 nautical miles from the site where the aircraft lost contact.

The plane’s blackboxes, as the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder are known, should help explain why the almost-new jet went down minutes after take-off.

An Indonesian rescuer evacuating parts from a crashed Lion Air passenger plane in waters off Tanjung Karawang, West Java, Indonesia, 29 October 2018. (AAP: Supplied)

Although it is now almost certain that everyone on the plane died, relatives are desperate to find traces of their loved ones. Only body parts and debris have been found.

Investigators are looking into why the pilot of the downed aircraft had asked to return to base shortly after take-off, a request that ground control officials had granted, although the flight crashed soon after.

An official of the national transport safety panel has said the plane had technical problems on its previous flight on Sunday, from the city of Denpasar on the resort island of Bali, including an issue over “unreliable airspeed”.

The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer’s single-aisle jet.

Members of a rescue team bring personal items and wreckage ashore at the port in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, Indonesia on October 29, 2018, after they were recovered from the sea where Lion Air flight JT 610 crashed off the north coast earlier in the day. - A brand new Indonesian Lion Air plane carrying 189 passengers and crew crashed into the sea on October 29, officials said, moments after it had asked to be allowed to return to Jakarta. (Photo credit should read Jepayona Delita / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Privately owned Lion Air, founded in 1999, said the aircraft, had been in operation since August and was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot having 11,000 hours of flying time between them.

The airline is to meet a team from Boeing on Wednesday to discuss the fate of its 737 MAX 8 plane.

“We have many questions for them,” Lion Air Director Daniel Putut told reporters on Tuesday.

“This was a new plane.”