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In Indonesia, Airliner Crashes With 189 Aboard

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In Indonesia, a plane carrying 189 passengers and crew crashed in the Java Sea today. Authorities say they do not believe there are any survivors. This flight was operated by the low-cost airline Lion Air. It had departed Jakarta for a one-hour journey. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: There appears to have been trouble early into Lion Air Flight 610. Transportation officials said that the crew had requested a return to base shortly after takeoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MUHAMMAD SYAUQI: (Speaking Indonesian).

MCCARTHY: Muhammad Syauqi, the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, said the plane lost contact 13 minutes into the flight. The Boeing 737 is believed to have crashed northeast of the capital, Jakarta, in waters 115 feet deep.

We are trying to dive to find the wreckage, Syauqi said. One hundred and thirty rescuers have been searching a patch of the oil-soaked Java Sea. They have posted images of floating debris thought to be from Flight 610 - black slacks, lifejackets and what appears to be a small fiberglass section of the plane. The country's finance minister, Sri Mulyani, choked back tears...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SRI MULYANI: (Speaking Indonesian).

MCCARTHY: ...As she confirmed that 20 officials from her ministry were on board the ill-fated flight. They were flying back to the island of Bangka, a tin-mining region. The Transport Safety Committee said determining the cause of the crash would have to wait until the recovery of the cockpit and flight data recorder, known as the black box. The chief executive of Lion Air said, we are also confused about the why since it was a new plane. The privately owned carrier said the aircraft had only been in operation since August.

But the airline has had a mixed safety record. Earlier, the U.S. and the EU had banned Lion Air from operating in their airspace. But both lifted the restriction in 2016. With its 17,000 islands, air travel in Indonesia has rapidly expanded - and with it, Lion Air. The budget carrier aggressively invested in a new fleet featuring Boeing's 737 MAX. It's a more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's workhorse, single-aisle jet. Today's accident is the first reported to involve the widely sold Boeing model. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Manila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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