JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP): A Sriwijaya Air passenger jet carrying 62 people lost contact with air traffic controllers after taking off from Indonesia’s capital on Saturday on a domestic flight, officials said.
Indonesian Transportation Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati said the Boeing 737-500 took off from Jakarta at about 1:56 p.m. and lost contact with the control tower at 2:40 p.m.
A statement released by the airline said the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island. There were 56 passengers and six crew members onboard.
Irawati said in a statement that a search and rescue operation was underway in coordination with the National Search and Rescue Agency and the National Transportation Safety Committee.
Local media reports said fishermen spotted metal objects believed to be parts of a plane on Saturday afternoon in the Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta.
Television footage showed relatives and friends of people aboard the plane weeping, praying and hugging each other as they waited at Jakarta’s airport and Pontianak’s airport.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.
In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.
Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.