An official with Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency has confirmed that debris from a Sriwijaya Air passenger plane carrying 62 people was found after contact was lost shortly after takeoff from Jakarta.
The rescue agency's Bambang Suryo Aji said the discovery of wreckage was first reported by the local post command on Lancang Island and that the debris would be sent to a national transportation safety agency.
At a virtual press conference Saturday, the head of the safety agency, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said he was still gathering all information and "will start searching for the black box tomorrow morning."
VOA radio affiliates in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, reported that some family members had come to Supadio Airport to find out more information regarding the plane and that a crisis center had been set up. Some family members could not hide their sorrow and were seen crying and screaming at the center's staff.
Bound for Pontianak
Flight SJ182 was en route to Pontianak, the capital of the West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo, the Transportation Ministry said.
Flightradar24, a flight tracking service, said the Boeing 737 "lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta."
"The missing plane is currently under investigation and under coordination with the National Search and Rescue Agency and the National Transportation Safety Committee," government spokesman Adita Irawati said in a statement.
Minister of Transportation Budi Karya told reporters the National Search and Rescue Agency and the military had deployed ships to search for the plane.
The minister said the plane took off at 2:36 p.m. local time Saturday, but four minutes later air traffic control could no longer contact it. "Within seconds the plane disappeared from the radar," he added.
Indonesian navy and air force sources told VOA that "at least seven ships have been deployed to location, while some aircraft ready to be operated from Sultan Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi and Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta tomorrow morning."
The airline's chief executive, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, told reporters that the plane's takeoff had been delayed 30 minutes because of heavy rain.
A local fisherman identified only as Mahyudin on Pancang Island near the location where contact was lost with the plane said in an interview with VOA that "some fishermen told me they hear a loud bang, like an explosion, in the sea around 2:30 or 2:40 p.m.
"It was raining and quite dark. They came home around 3.30 p.m. and as soon as I got their report, we call local police. They [fishermen] also saw plane debris near their boat." He added that local police had set up emergency tents on the Island.
Wayne Lee and Fern Robinson contributed to this report.