Would-be passenger says he missed doomed Lion Air plane crash flight due to bad traffic
A would-be passenger is lucky to be alive after heavy traffic reportedly made him miss the doomed Lion Air flight that crashed into the sea off Indonesia today, with 189 people onboard.
Sony Setiawan, an official in Indonesia's finance ministry, was supposed to be onboard flight JT 610 when it left from the capital of Jakarta on Monday morning.
Thankfully, he was held up on his way to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, due to road congestion and missed the Boeing-737 flight headed for the western city of Pangkal Pinang.
Roughly 13 minutes after takeoff, the plane disappeared from radar, before plunging 5,000 ft into the Java Sea; officials have stated that they do not expect to find any survivors.
Setiawan, who takes the same one hour, ten minute Lion Air flight every week, took a later flight to Pangkal Pinang on another airline and arrived safely.
He had no idea about the tragedy until he landed and learned six of his colleagues had likely lost their lives.
After hearing the news, he made an emotional phone call to his family, who were in "shock" from the incident. Although he feels great gratitude for being alive, his relief is tinged with the knowledge that so many people, including colleagues who he counted as friends, were not as fortunate.
"The first time I heard I cried," he said. "I know my friends were on that flight... My family was in shock and my mother cried, but I told them I was safe, so I just have to be grateful."
He continued to tell AFP: "I usually take (flight) JT610 - my friends and I always take this plane. I don't know why the traffic at the toll road was so bad. I usually arrive in Jakarta at 3am but this morning I arrived at the airport at 6:20 and I missed the flight."
Lion Air stated the brand new Boeing 737 was carrying 181 passengers, including one child, two babies, and eight crew members.
Around 300 people, including soldiers, police and local fishermen, were involved in the search for survivors. So far, the team has reportedly recovered six bodies, other body parts, ID cards, personal belongings and aircraft debris.
"We need to find the main wreckage," said Bambang Suryo, operational director of the search and rescue agency. "I predict there are no survivors, based on body parts found so far."
It is reported to be the first major accident involving a Boeing 737 Max, an updated version of the 737.
Lion Air Chief Executive Edward Sirait said the plane had an unspecified "technical issue" on a previous flight, but that it had been "resolved".
Families are requested to go to the hospital to identify the dead. According to their website, Lion Air has a crisis phone line open for relatives and friends of the victims. It can be reached on (021) -80820001.