Lion Air crash: Distraught relatives of victims confront airline owner

Angry relatives of the victims of an Indonesian jet that crashed into the sea off Jakarta killing all 189 passengers demanded answers from the airline’s owner today.

Distraught families begged the founder of Lion Air to tell them why the plane, which was found to have technical problems, had been passed fit to fly. 

All 189 people on board the Lion Air jet were killed when the plane crashed into the Java Sea on October 29 just minutes after taking off from Jakarta.

The night before the fatal crash, the same aircraft had erratic speed and altitude issues during a flight from Bali to Jakarta, it emerged yesterday.

Passengers noticed an ‘unusual’ rumbling coming from the engine and a ‘roller coaster’-like flight, which combined with the heat caused some people to become ill. 

Lion Air Founder and owner, Rusdi Kirana, stood up, bowed his head, and clasped his hands together when relatives of passengers of the doomed Lion Air flight demanded answers at a press conference today

Lion Air Founder and owner, Rusdi Kirana, stood up, bowed his head, and clasped his hands together when relatives of passengers of the doomed Lion Air flight demanded answers at a press conference today

Lion Air Founder and owner, Rusdi Kirana, stood up, bowed his head, and clasped his hands together when relatives of passengers of the doomed Lion Air flight demanded answers at a press conference today

Relatives of passengers who died in the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 sobbed during a meeting with Indonesian authorities and Lion Air management in Jakarta today

Relatives of passengers who died in the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 sobbed during a meeting with Indonesian authorities and Lion Air management in Jakarta today

Relatives of passengers who died in the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 sobbed during a meeting with Indonesian authorities and Lion Air management in Jakarta today

The pilot made a radio alert to turn back to Bali just minutes into the flight, however was able to overcome the problem and landed safely in Jakarta. 

At a news conference today charged with emotion, relatives questioned Indonesian officials including transport minister, Budi Karya Sumadi, and the head of the country’s transportation safety committee (KNKT). 

At one stage during the meeting, which was arranged by Indonesian officials, relatives urged Lion Air founder, Rusdi Kirana, who was in the audience, to stand up.

He stood up, but did not comment and clasped his hands together and bowed his head as if seeking forgiveness.  

After the meeting, Kirana left in a hurry, avoiding questions from reporters. 

Since the privately owned budget carrier was founded in 1999 by the Kirana brothers, its aircraft have been involved in at least 15 safety incidents and it has been placed under tougher international safety restrictions than other Indonesian airlines. 

Muhammad Bambang Sukandar, the father of another victim, said Lion Air technicians needed to take ‘full responsibility’ if it was proved they had not properly attended to technical issues following the jet’s previous flight from Bali to Jakarta.

Since the privately owned budget Indonesian carrier was founded in 1999 by the Kirana brothers, its aircraft have been involved in at least 15 safety incidents

Since the privately owned budget Indonesian carrier was founded in 1999 by the Kirana brothers, its aircraft have been involved in at least 15 safety incidents

Since the privately owned budget Indonesian carrier was founded in 1999 by the Kirana brothers, its aircraft have been involved in at least 15 safety incidents

A woman, whose husband was on Lion Air flight, cries as she holds their son after a news conference about the recovery process at a hotel in Jakarta

A woman, whose husband was on Lion Air flight, cries as she holds their son after a news conference about the recovery process at a hotel in Jakarta

A woman, whose husband was on Lion Air flight, cries as she holds their son after a news conference about the recovery process at a hotel in Jakarta

Families of victims of the air disaster demanded authorities tell them why the jet was cleared for take off when it had technical problems 

Families of victims of the air disaster demanded authorities tell them why the jet was cleared for take off when it had technical problems 

Families of victims of the air disaster demanded authorities tell them why the jet was cleared for take off when it had technical problems 

He said, as he sought to choke back tears: ‘This is not an unimportant thing. These are people’s lives. Don’t let something like this keep happening in Indonesia.’ 

Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record has been patchy, with its transport safety panel investigated 137 serious aviation incidents from 2012 to 2017.    

Najib Fuquoni, a relative of a victim, demanded an independent investigation into the crash, said: ‘We are the victims here. Imagine if you were in our position.’

Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record has been patchy, with its transport safety panel investigated 137 serious aviation incidents from 2012 to 2017. 

Indonesian authorities yesterday extended by three days the search for victims and a second black box recorder from wreckage of a nearly new Boeing 737 MAX that slammed into the sea a week ago only minutes after it took off from Jakarta. 

Some relatives and families of victims of the Lion Air flight had to leave the meeting because they were too upset

Some relatives and families of victims of the Lion Air flight had to leave the meeting because they were too upset

Some relatives and families of victims of the Lion Air flight had to leave the meeting because they were too upset

Indonesian National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) officials examine a turbine engine from the Lion Air flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta

Indonesian National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) officials examine a turbine engine from the Lion Air flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta

Indonesian National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) officials examine a turbine engine from the Lion Air flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta

Divers found the black box on Thursday in a damaged condition and investigators said it required special handling to retrieve the information. 

The second black box is believed to be just 50 metres from the main search area, where the water is only 30 metres deep, but ocean currents and mud on the sea bed is complicating search efforts. 

More than 100 body bags of human remains have been pulled from the water, with the number expected to rise as remains were now washing up on land and only 14 victims have been identified so far. 

While victims’ relatives are desperate to know what happened, the first crash of a Boeing 737 MAX is also the focus of scrutiny by the global aviation industry.

Transport minister Sumadi, added that authorities were also conducting a special audit to include operating procedures and crew qualifications 

He said: ‘As an initial step we conducted ramp checks for 11 Boeing 737 Max 8.’ 

Divers recovered the crucial black box with dozens of hours of data as investigators piece together final moments of the doomed flight that killed 189

Divers recovered the crucial black box with dozens of hours of data as investigators piece together final moments of the doomed flight that killed 189

Divers recovered the crucial black box with dozens of hours of data as investigators piece together final moments of the doomed flight that killed 189

Members of an Indonesian rescue team unloaded a pair of tyres from the ill-fated Lion Air flight which were recovered at sea

Members of an Indonesian rescue team unloaded a pair of tyres from the ill-fated Lion Air flight which were recovered at sea

Members of an Indonesian rescue team unloaded a pair of tyres from the ill-fated Lion Air flight which were recovered at sea

The search effort has involved 151 divers, five helicopters, 61 ships, ranging from fishing boats to ships with advanced sonar scanners, as well as underwater drones.

An Indonesian rescue diver died during the search for a second black box, parts of the plane, and human remains on the muddy seabed.

The head of KNKT Surjanto Tjahjono has said 69 hours of recorded data from 19 flights, including the one that crashed, had been downloaded successfully from a partly damaged flight data recorder recovered on Thursday.

As of Monday, 138 body bags containing human remains had been recovered and handed to police for forensic identification, yet only 14 victims had been identified.

Among the larger parts of the plane found have been a mangled engine and a damaged aircraft wheel.

Tjahjono said based on initial analysis the ‘engine was running with fairly high speed’ when it hit the water. 

While there were no signs of an explosion in the air, the plane appeared to have hit the water with huge force, he added, saying: ‘When the plane hit the water, the energy released was extraordinarily large.’ 

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