‘Why did it fly?’ | Sunday Observer

‘Why did it fly?’

Indonesian navy divers rest after recovering the wheels of the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 from the sea on Friday. (Pic: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)
Indonesian navy divers rest after recovering the wheels of the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 from the sea on Friday. (Pic: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

“I heard the plane from Bali already had a problem, right. So why did it fly?” asks Fendy, 43, as he sits on the kerb outside the police hospital in East Jakarta, trying to make sense of things.

The last time Fendy saw his wife, Mawar Sariarti, was when he dropped her off at the airport on Monday morning, before she boarded a flight that later plunged into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff.

“The system is difficult in Indonesia. It’s as though they don’t care about people’s lives, it’s trivial to them,” he says quietly, “They shouldn’t try and excuse it by saying it was a new plane. They weren’t supposed to fly.”

Five days after the new Boeing 737 Max operated by Indonesia’s budget airline Lion Air crashed off the coast, killing all 189 on board, family members are demanding answers.

In the wake of the disaster, reports have emerged the same plane had technical difficulties the night before, on a flight from Bali to Jakarta, just hours before it crashed.

For the families with loved ones on board, their grief is now infused with palpable anger.

On Friday, relatives at the police hospital – where family members have handed over toothbrushes, unwashed clothes and dental records in the hope it will help forensics experts identify the victims – got the chance to confront Lion Air directly. ‘We have just been left hanging here’

Inside a large room at the hospital more than 100 family members attended the media conference arranged for them, sitting slumped or arms crossed with dazed expressions as police forensics and a Lion Air representative provided the latest updates in the search, and urged them to be patient.

“You can tell the public about the black box, but that’s not what we need to hear,” says the first relative to respond, his voice wavering over the microphone, “If you really cared about us don’t be so proud about that.”

One man in the audience closes his eyes as he recites a prayer, while in the corner police psychologists attempt to distract the children in the playpen. Most family members wear plastic nametags around their neck – identifying the wearer and those they have lost.

“The results of the investigation are not important to us. The important thing is, when are we going to be finished here?” asked the next, a man in a Batik shirt, “Are we able to see the condition of the dead bodies? No. We have just been left hanging here.”

In the five days that have passed since flight JT610 fell into the sea the disaster victim identification team has identified only four of the 189 victims.

Dr Lisda Cancer, a forensic specialist told reporters the first victim was identified after they made a match on a fingerprint and a gold ring, on a hand that had come in.

As of Friday afternoon 67 body bags had arrived at the hospital from the port, mostly a jumbled mix of body parts. “From the body parts that have come in,” admitted Cancer, “We have only got limited information.”

Relatives have gathered at the police hospital for days hoping for a positive ID, and the frustration has led to a macabre line of questioning.

“From the parts that come in the body bag, do you put those together first or what?” asked one anxious relative. “We all just want this process to be faster.”

According to Islam, the dominant religion in Indonesia, a dead body should be properly washed and prepared for burial as soon as possible – a ritual almost no one in the room has been able to perform.

Families also wonder between themselves whether Lion Air was at fault given the technical difficulties the plane reportedly suffered on Sunday night, including “unreliable” airspeed indicators and the pilot requesting to turn back five minutes after takeoff, before apparently resolving the issue.

The Guardian has also learned the same plane had a separate technical issue days prior, on a flight from Manado to Denpasar.

Lion Air stands by its statement that the plane was fit to fly. “Yes, we took time to fix the problem from Manado to Denpasar to make sure everything was fixed,” says Nyoman Rai Pering, the director of Lion Air’s largest engineering facility, located in Batam, when asked why the plane, contrary to its normal flying pattern, had been grounded hours longer than normal that weekend.

“I think the problem was with the angle of attack, which controls the stability of the aircraft,” he said, adding that problem had also been rectified and the plane cleared to fly.

- theguardian