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10/29/2018 10:29:06 AM

Lion Air flight crashes after taking off from Jakarta: Indonesian official

A Lion Air passenger plane has crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta on Monday morning (Oct 29), Indonesia's search and rescue agency said.

File photo of a Lion Air plane. (Photo: AFP/Adek Berry)

"It has been confirmed that it has crashed," Yusuf Latif, a spokesman for the agency, said by text message, when asked about the fate of the plane.

It was not immediately clear how many people were on board.

The plane lost contact 13 minutes after takeoff, the official said, adding that a tug boat leaving the capital's port had seen the craft falling. The jet was a Boeing 737 MAX 8, according to air tracking service Flightradar 24.

Flight JT610 took off around 6.20am and was due to have landed in the capital of the Bangka-Belitung tin mining hub at 7.20am, the tracking service showed.

Lion Air flight JT610 was en route to Pangkal Pinang. (Image: Flightradar24)

The Flightradar website tracked the plane, showing it looping south on take-off and then heading north before the flight path ended abruptly over the Java Sea, not far from the coast.

A search and rescue operation is reportedly under way. A telegram from the National Search and Rescue Agency to the air force has requested assistance with the search of a location at sea off Java, the Associated Press reported.

"We cannot give any comment at this moment," said Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air Group. "We are trying to collect all the information and data."

A news conference would be held later on Monday, he told Reuters.

The accident is the first to be reported that involves the widely-sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's workhorse single-aisle jet. The first Boeing 737 MAX jets were introduced into service in 2017.

Indonesia relies heavily on air transport to connect its thousands of islands but has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered several fatal crashes in recent years.

A 12-year-old boy was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed eight people in mountainous eastern Indonesia in August.

In August 2015, a commercial passenger aircraft operated by Indonesian carrier Trigana crashed in Papua due to bad weather, killing all 54 people on board./.

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