The Lion Air plane with 189 people aboard that crashed on Monday into sea off western Indonesia has been crushed into pieces from severe impact with sea surface, Indonesian authorities said Tuesday.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 plane that crashed in waters near the capital city disintegrated due to the severe impact with sea surface after it dived at a rapid speed, allegedly from 3,000-feet (900-meter) height.
The almost new plane was en route to Pangkal Pinang, capital of the Bangka Belitung province. Rescuers have retrieved 24 bags of body parts.
Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Operational Director Bambang Suryo Aji on Monday ruled out the possibility that the plane exploded in the sky as there has been no burnt signs on the debris and body parts found floating around the crash site.
He said the chance was slim to find any survivors among 189 passengers and crew members of the ill-fated JT 610 flight.
On a separate occasion, head of the Indonesian Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) Soerjanto Tjahjono said that plane sped up fast at 340 knot, or 629.68 km per hour, before plunging into the sea.
Speaking at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta international airport, Soerjanto said such a speed was too fast for a plane in its category.
It was not known whether the plane's captain Bhavye Suneja, an Indian pilot, was intentionally increased the speed on purpose or not.
He added the pilot had asked for Return To Base (RTB) at a height of 1,700 feet (500 meters) two minutes after takeoff, saying that there was something wrong with the plane that made him decide to return to the airport.
The plane took off from the airport at 6:20 a.m. and lost contact with the air traffic control 13 minutes later, reports said.
Lion Air spokesperson Danang Mandala Prihantoro said the captain was a seasoned pilot with 6,000 flying hours, while his co-pilot has 5,000 flying hours.
The low-cost carrier said the plane arrived in Jakarta on Aug. 15, registered with Indonesian plane code of PK-LQP. It immediately commenced its flight service for the Lion Air on domestic routes.
Lion Air ordered as many as 218 units of the Boeing 737 Max 8 for its fleet, making it the first in Indonesia to operate the plane which made its factory maiden flight in 2017.
In global air transport, Lion Air was among six airlines of several countries that fly the new Boeing 737 model.
Lion Air denied that the plane was unfit to fly due to a technical problem that occurred on its previous flight from the Denpasar airport in Bali to Jakarta.
"There was a report on technical issue indeed. The checking was referred to maintenance procedure made by the plane factory," the airline's President Director Edward Sirait told a press conference on Monday.
He stressed the airline would not allow it to fly should the problem still exists with the plane.
According to information issued by flightradar24.com, the plane experienced a delay for almost three hours on its previous flight from Bali to Jakarta due to the technical problem.
Indonesian divers were racing against time to search for the crashed plane's Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder, known as the black boxes, debris of the plane and bodies of passengers as the operation will last for seven days with additional three more days if necessary.
The joint search operation was conducted by navy, police, Basarnas and other related agencies in the alleged crash site.
The search team deployed experienced divers as well as using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to spot underwater objects.
Head of Basarnas Muhammad Syaugi said the search operation encountered difficulties due to absence of Emergency Local Transmitter (ELT) beacon that supposedly installed in the aircraft.
The ELT will automatically emit radio signal should the aircraft encounters emergency situations.
"One thing for sure, the plane's ELT did not emit distress signals ... (therefore) Basarnas' Earth Orbital Local User Terminal could not detect whereabouts of the crashed plane," Syauqi said on Monday.
The search operation resumed on Tuesday morning after it was suspended on Monday night due to bad weather and low visibility.
Indonesian authorities have set up command posts at Jakarta airport, Halim Perdanakusumah airport, police hospital, Tanjung Priok and Tanjung Pakis ports to carry out different tasks.
The sea ports were assigned to receive and collect findings from the crashed plane, while the posts at the airports and police hospital would take care of passengers' complaints and identification of bodies from the plane crash.