(Updates with official confirmation)
Jakarta, Jan 9 (efe-epa).- Indonesian aviation authorities on Saturday confirmed that a Sriwijaya airline commercial plane with 56 passengers and six crew on board that lost contact with air traffic control towers has crashed into the sea minutes after it took off.
Bambang Suryohadi, of the Indonesian search and rescue agency, Basarna, told an emergency press conference that the Sriwajaya airline plane, a Boeing 737-524, crashed into the Java Sea a few minutes after take-off from the International Airport Sukarno-Hatta, in the Indonesian capital, towards Pontianak, capital of Western Borneo.
Indonesian Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi also held his own press conference where he said that contact with the aircraft was lost at 2:40 pm, 13 minutes after taking off.
At that point, the aircraft abruptly changed direction and lost altitude, prompting the control tower to ask the pilots what was happening when the aircraft suddenly disappeared from the radar, said the minister, who expressed his “regret” over the incident.
The spokesman for the search and rescue agency said that remains of the plane had already been found, and that the exact point of the collision was expected to be located tonight. A team will be sent to the site on Sunday to investigate.
Among the 56 passengers on the plane were three infants and seven other children, as well as six crew members, according to the flight manifest which Efe had access to. It is not yet known whether there were foreign citizens among them.
Police reported that they have set up a body identification station at a hospital in eastern Jakarta where the families and relatives of the victims will receive counselling, according to the local website Detik.
Fishermen in the vicinity told local media that they had witnessed an explosion and found the possible debris of a plane crash floating in the sea.
In images distributed by the local portal KompasTV, several fishermen who were at sea showed cables and other equipment that they had found in the vicinity of the place where the trail of the plane was lost. EFE