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Indonesia

Families of Lion Air crash victims demand search continues for wreckage and bodies

  • Authorities called off the grim task of identifying victims last month, with 125 people officially recognised after testing 200 body bags filled with remains
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 9:03pm

Dozens of family members whose loved ones were killed in a Lion Air plane crash rallied in the Indonesian capital on Thursday, demanding the search for the jet continue.

The Boeing 737 MAX vanished from radar about 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta on October 29, crashing into waters off Indonesia’s northern coast and killing all 189 people on board.

Authorities called off the grim task of identifying victims of the crash last month, with 125 people officially recognised after testing on human remains that filled some 200 body bags.

Some of the victims’ families gathered in front of the presidential palace in Jakarta on Thursday afternoon, where they called on authorities to help retrieve the remaining 64 bodies and pay compensation.

“Right now only around 30 per cent of the plane’s body has been found,” the group said in a statement. “We hope the search for the victims will use vessels with sophisticated technology.”

The protest comes just a day after Indonesian media reported that 25 victims’ families would file a new US$100 million legal suit against Boeing owing to faults with the 737 MAX.

Several relatives of the crash victims have already filed lawsuits against Boeing, including the family of a young doctor who was to have married his high school sweetheart last month.

The preliminary crash report from Indonesia’s transport safety agency suggested that pilots struggled to control the plane’s anti-stalling system immediately before the crash.

Investigators also found that the Lion Air jet should have been grounded over a recurrent technical problem before its fatal journey, but did not pinpoint a cause of for the accident.

A final report is not likely to be filed until next year.

Lion Air owner Rusdi Kirana said on Wednesday that the airline was contemplating cancelling a US$22 billion order with Boeing following the October crash.

The airline has expanded rapidly in the past two decades to capture half the domestic market and now has Southeast Asia’s biggest fleet.

But the accident has thrown the spotlight on the air safety record of Lion and other Indonesian carriers, which until recently faced years-long bans from entering European Union and US airspace.