189 presumed dead in Indonesian Lion Air airliner crash

All on board Lion Air Flight JT 610 are feared dead after the Indonesian airliner crashed shortly after takeoff Monday from Jakarta, the country’s capital city. At least three children and 20 Indonesian finance ministry officials are believed to be among the casualties.

The flight, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, was one of Boeing’s latest models, fueling questions about what caused the new plane to crash. The plane was reportedly delivered to Lion Air in August and it had only flown approximately 800 hours. The crash was the first involving the 737 MAX 8 fleet.

Initial reports indicate that the flight’s pilot made a “return to base” request within minutes of taking off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport en route to Pangkal Pinan. The flight was cleared to return, but crashed into the sea roughly 10 minutes later. Weather conditions were normal and do not appear to be a factor in the crash, authorities say.

The plane’s previous flight reported a technical issue the night before the crash, Lion Air’s CEO Edward Sirait said. Engineers repaired the issue and the plane was cleared to fly, he said. An investigation by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee is ongoing.

In an interview with CNN international, Motley Rice aviation attorney and former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo pointed to previous maintenance on the plane and its lack of altitude prior to the crash as two important clues for investigators looking into potential causes for the crash.

“I can't tell you how many accidents I’ve worked over the years where something happened on that next flight after it had been in maintenance. Sometimes it’s simple mistakes, sometimes they didn't get what was really wrong with the plane, but that will be a clue that investigators will look at,” she said. “The altitude gives us some really clear ideas of what was going on. First of all, the plane at this point in the flight should have been over 10,000 feet and this plane only got up to about 5,000 feet, which tells us that they had a problem with power.”  

Boeing released a statement saying it is “deeply saddened” by the crash, adding that it “stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation.”

Motley Rice aviation attorneys have experience investigating plane disasters involving international airlines, and have represented families when mechanical failures and other issues were found to be at fault. For more information, contact attorney Mary Schiavo at 843.216.9138 or [email protected].