UPDATED| Rescuers gather 50+ body bags, one passenger identified
Search and rescue efforts are on-going for victims as well as for the wreckage of the Indonesian airliner that went down on October 29, 2018. Hopes of finding any survivors have now completely faded as search teams continue to retrieve body parts from the sea. Latest update from Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Body (Basarnas) confirms rescuers have gathered over 50 body bags. Authorities have also confirmed the identity of one of the deceased passengers.
All seemed routine in early morning of October 29, 2018. A Boeing 737 MAX 8 was to perform a regular flight from Jakarta to the western city of Pangkal Pinang – a once a day route served by the Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air.
Among the passengers on board were approximately twenty employees from Indonesia’s Finance Ministry – they were returning to their offices in Pangkal Pinang after spending the weekend in Jakarta for a public holiday. Spokesperson Nufransa Wira Sakti told the BBC they had routinely taken this early-morning flight on the budget carrier because it would get them to the office in time.
Flight JT610 took off from the Jakarta Soekarno Hatta International Airport (CGK) as scheduled, at 6:20 AM local time. It was due to arrive at the Pangkal Pinang Airport (PGK) 1 hour and 10 minutes later. But only 13 minutes into its fight, ground staff lost contact with the airliner.
Flight JT610 ended up crashing into the sea off Jakarta, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board. According to Lion Air, the aircraft was carrying 178 adult passengers, one child and two babies. Two pilots and six cabin crew perished also in the crash.
Search efforts end up with body bags
Search and rescue (SAR) efforts for the wreckage of the plane as well as any survivors from the crash have continued into November 1, 2018. Aircraft debris and personal belongings are being collected from the crash site. Officers have laid out the personal items retrieved from the sea – from cell phones and wallets to backpacks, clothing and shoes, including those of children, – on white tarpaulins at Jakarta’s port.
Search teams are also retrieving body parts of flight victims from the deep waters of the Java Sea. Late on October 29, 2018, the National Search and Rescue Body confirmed 24 body bags had been collected. According to the agency, 10 of those contained body parts, and the remaining 14 contained aircraft debris and personal items presumed to belong to the crash victims.
As of October 30, 2018, the number of body bags had risen to 48, Lion Air Group informed. And on October 31, 2018, the company announced it received confirmation from the search and rescue agency that five more body bags had been collected. As of now, the number of body bags stands at 53. It is expected to rise further as search operations continue.
The victim's remains are being taken to the Kramat Jati Police Hospital in East Jakarta where family members gather for the identification processes of the dead (Disaster Victim Identification). According to Indonesia’s National Police deputy chief Ari Dono Sukamto, at least 15 forensic doctors and DNA experts were working to identify the human remains, The Jakarta Post reports.
Also on October 31, 2018, the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team of the Indonesian Police confirmed the identity of one of the passengers on board Flight JT610: a female passenger named Jannatun Shintya Dewi, an update released by the Lion Air Group reads. The confirmation was announced after a matching result of the forensic and ante-mortem tests with DNA data that had previously been given by the family to the DVI team.
Lion Air has expressed its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the late Jannatun Shintya Dewi, who, BBC writes, was 24 years old and worked in the engineering ministry. The carrier states it handed over the deceased body to her family at the Police Hospital. The following day, on November 1, 2018, her remains were flown to Surabaya, East Java, where the funeral was held.
The DVI police team continues with the in-depth identification process covering forensics and DNA testing, with the families of passengers and flight crew.
Boeing, Lion Air respond
There has been an outpouring of sympathies and condolences to victims of the crash and their families from government institutions as well as companies involved in the accident. Early on in the search efforts, Indonesia‘s President Joko Widodo urged citizens to “keep on praying” in the hopes survivors would be found, the Hindustan Times reported.
Boeing tweeted it was aware of reports of an airplane accident in the wake of the crash and said it was “closely monitoring” the situation. The U.S. plane maker released a statement on October 29, 2018, expressing sympathy for the relatives of the deceased, saying the company is “deeply saddened” by the tragedy of Lion Air Flight JT 610.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of those on board”, the statement reads. “Boeing stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation.”
Lion Air, on its part, said it is “concerned with the incident” and will work with relevant authorities and agencies on the air crash investigation. “The airline is very concerned with the incident and will continue to render their co-operation to all parties concerned in providing firsthand information with relates to the status of affected passengers and crew,” an October 29, 2018, statement from the airline reads.
Lion Air has been assisting the victims’ family members by flying them in from various states to Jakarta with accommodations provided at a designated hotel. The company has set up an information center at the hotel as well as a crisis center at the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport (HLP) in East Jakarta. The airline has also opened a crisis and passenger information phone line and promises to continue to provide the victims’ families with up-to-date information.
Speaking at a press conference during his visit to the Police Hospital in East Jakarta, Lion Air operational director Daniel Putut said the company had collected the data of 209 relatives of the victims. At the same conference, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said Lion Air had provided "friendly and good assistance" to the families of the crash victims. The company has also cooperated with the National Police to provide psychological support, he was cited as saying by The Jakarta Post.
Meanwhile, the state-owned insurance company Jasa Raharja assured that all passengers aboard Lion Air Flight JT610 or their next of kin would be compensated in accordance with prevailing laws and a 2017 Finance Ministry regulation.
“Jasa Raharja is ready to provide Rp 50 million [$3,290] in compensation for those who died in the incident and cover up to Rp 25 million [$1,645] in hospital costs for injured victims," the company's director, Budi Rahardjo, said in a statement on October 29, 2018.
As for the one identified female passenger, Lion Air says it will cover the necessary expenses for the late Jannatun Shintya Dewi's family, including the waiting allowance to the family of IDR 5,000,000 ($332), grief money of IDR 25,000,000 ($1,659) and compensation for death according to ministerial regulation-77 year 2011 of IDR 1,250,000,000 ($8,292).
* In the main photo: Indonesian navy depart a visit, board, search and seizure exercise with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard in Surabaya, Indonesia, on May 31, 2012.
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