When Lion Air Flight JT 610 crashed off the coast of Jakarta with 189 people on board, it was one passenger short. Sony Setiawan, an Indonesian man, has revealed that he fortuitously missed the flight after getting caught in traffic on his way to the airport.
Bambang Suryo Aji, a search and rescue agency official, said they do not expect to find any survivors from Lion Air flight JT610, which was a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8, rather, the effort is focused on finding bodies.
Meanwhile, Setiawan, who was traveling for work, has been dubbed the luckiest man alive. Unfortunately, his colleagues did board the flight while he was still stuck in traffic outside Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. “I usually take (flight) JT610 – my friends and I always take this plane,” Setiawan told AFP. “I don’t know why the traffic at the toll road was so bad. I usually arrive in Jakarta at 3 am but this morning I arrived at the airport at 6.20 and I missed the flight.”
Setiawan, an official in Indonesia’s finance ministry, said he and his colleagues took the flight once a week. On Monday morning, a few minutes after takeoff, the Boeing 737 disappeared from radar before plummeting 5,000 feet into the Java Sea.
Though he was grateful that he had been spared, Setiawan said that any gratitude was outweighed by the fact that so many people, including six of his workmates, had been aboard. “The first time I heard I cried,” he said. “I know my friends were on that flight.”
The finance ministry has reported that 20 of its employees were on the plane. Setiawan, who took a later flight to Pangkal Pinang city, heard about the crash after he had landed. He proceeded to call his family and let them know he was unharmed, though he says the call was “filled with emotion.”
“My family was in shock and my mother cried, but I told them I was safe, so I just have to be grateful,” he said.
According to Suryo Aji, six body bags have been used so far for recovered remains, but the plane’s hull has yet to be located. Personal belongings and wreckage from the plane have been collected at the port in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta. The waters where the plane crashed are up to 100 feet deep, therefore, the search effort is expected to last at least a week. There are more than 300 people, including soldiers, police and local fishermen helping with the search effort.
Lion Air said that the 70-minute flight to Pangkal Pinang, which is located on an island chain off Sumatra, had one child and two babies on board. The Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency believes the plane crashed into the sea after it lost contact after taking off from the airport. Lion Air president-director Edward Sirait said the Boeing-737 jet had had a “technical problem” on a previous flight from Bali to Jakarta but that it had been fixed.
The captain had more than 6,000 flying hours of experience while the co-pilot had more than 5,000 hours, according to Lion Air, a low-cost carrier, which is one of the country’s newest and largest airlines.