Lion Air Jet Position Possibly Located, 48 Body Bags Sent to Police

October 30, 2018 Updated: October 30, 2018

JAKARTA, Indonesia—A massive search effort has identified the possible seabed location of the crashed Lion Air jet, Indonesia’s military chief said on Oct. 31, as experts carried out the grim task of identifying dozens of body parts recovered from a 15 nautical mile search area.

A rescuer inspects a part of Lion Air plane retrieved from the waters
A rescuer inspects a part of Lion Air plane flight JT 610 retrieved from the waters where it’s believed to have crashed at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakara)

The 2-month-old Boeing plane plunged into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 just minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

“Based on the presentation of the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, the coordinates of the suspected body of the aircraft have been found. We will send a team there to confirm,” said armed forces chief Hadi Tjahjanto.

The disaster has reignited concerns about safety in Indonesia’s fast-growing aviation industry, which was recently removed from European Union and U.S. blacklists, and also raised doubts about the safety of Boeing’s new generation 737 MAX 8 plane.

Boeing Co. experts are expected to arrive Indonesia on Oct. 31 and Lion Air has said an “intense” internal investigation is underway in addition to the probe by safety regulators.

Locating the fuselage will bring the search effort closer to finding the airplane’s flight recorders, which are crucial to the accident investigation.

Data from flight-tracking sites show the plane had erratic speed and altitude in the early minutes of a flight on Oct. 28 and on its fatal flight on Oct. 29. Safety experts caution, however, that the data must be checked for accuracy against the plane’s “black boxes,” which officials are confident will be recovered.

Passengers on the Oct. 28 flight from Bali to Jakarta have recounted problems that including a long-delayed takeoff for an engine check and terrifying descents in the first 10 minutes in the air.

Officials said the non-stop search effort has sent 48 body bags containing human remains to police identification experts.

Anguished family members have been providing samples for DNA tests and police say results are expected within 4-8 days.

Daniel Putut, a Lion Air managing director, said the airline and Boeing will meet in the afternoon on Oct. 31.

“Of course there are lots of things we will ask them, we all have question marks here, why? What’s the matter with this new plane,” he said.

Indonesia’s Transport Ministry has ordered all Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes operated by Lion Air and national carrier Garuda to be inspected.

Boeing declined to comment about potential inspections globally.

The aircraft manufacturer told airlines in a bulletin, “Boeing has no recommended operator action at this time,” according to two people familiar with the matter.