A Sriwijaya Air jetliner carrying 62 people on board crashed shortly after taking off from Jakarta, according to the head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, Suryanto Cahyono.
Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 from Jakarta to Pontianak, in Indonesian Borneo, lost contact at 2:40 p.m. Western Indonesian Time (2:40 a.m. ET) on Saturday.
Maj. Gen Bambang Suryo Aji of Basarnas, Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency, told reporters on Saturday that the plane is believed to have crashed between the islands of Laki and Lancang, in the Thousand Islands chain northwest of the capital, Jakarta. Basarnas is now conducting a search operation.
Three fishermen from Lancang Island told CNN they heard one explosion and experienced a sudden large wave around the time the plane went missing.
“I heard very loud explosion. I thought it was a bomb or a big thunder. We then saw the big wave, about 2 meters high, hitting our boat,” Hendrik Mulyadi told CNN.
Hendrik’s colleague, Solihin, said it was dark and raining at the time of the explosion.
The men said they didn’t see a plane crash into the sea, but smelled fuel and spotted debris. The men said they returned to shore to report what they experienced to police.
The missing Indonesia plane, a Boeing 737-500, was carrying 50 passengers — 43 adults and 7 children — as well as 12 crew members, Indonesian Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said during a press conference.
Indonesian news agency Antara reported Sunday that the Jakarta Metropolitan Police have set up a command post at a hospital in East Jakarta for families to identify bodies from the crash if any are recovered.
So far, authorities have yet to report the recovery of any human remains during the search for the missing aircraft.
In a joint effort between the Indonesian Navy, Police, Coast Guard and Transportation Ministry, a total of 28 ships, five helicopters and two airplanes are taking part in the search, according to Rear Adm. Abdul Rasyid, including 10 Navy ships being sent to the waters around Laki Island.
A coast guard captain with Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry said an emergency evacuation slide from a Boeing 737 has been found at sea in the location near the site where the crash is thought to have happened.