Families of ill-fated Lion Air victims still hope for miracle as DNA tests underway

Rescue workers lay out newly recovered debris of Lion Air flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 31 October 2018
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Families of ill-fated Lion Air victims still hope for miracle as DNA tests underway

  • Two passengers on the plane's previous flight from Bali to Jakarta on Sunday described issues that caused annoyance and alarm
  • Lion Air president Edward Sirait said there were reports of technical problems with the flight from Bali but they had been resolved in accordance with the plane manufacturer's procedures

JAKARTA: Toni Priyono Adhi still keeps alive her hopes that his daughter Puspita Eka Putri will pick up her phone and answer his calls, although deep down he knows that it is very unlikely.
Putri, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Oct. 26, was one of the 189 people on board the Lion Air JT610 flight from Jakarta bound for Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Island which crashed Monday morning into the sea off Karawang in West Java, about 75 kilometers from Jakarta.
“I just keep praying for a miracle. We keep trying to call her and call out her name in case she replies,” Adhi told journalists at the police hospital in East Jakarta where body parts plucked from the crash site were taken and families of the victims are submitting antemortem data for identification.
Adhi said it was Putri’s first business trip with a beauty products company that she joined a month ago. Her mother, who identified herself as Nuke, said it was Putri’s first flight by herself.
“We always took flights together. I always picked her up from her campus when she was in college. My daughter, she was really beautiful. God had entrusted her to me,” said a visibly shaken Nuke, kissing her daughter’s photo.
Imbalo Sakti remembers her brother-in-law, Capt. Musa Effendi, as a kind-hearted man whom the family members looked up to.
Sakti told Arab News that Effendi, who worked as a portmaster in Muntok port on the western part of Bangka Island, was on his way to a meeting in Pangkal Pinang.
“He had traveled from Medan, North Sumatra, where he had attended a Qur’an recital in his hometown to give thanks for he and his wife’s safe return from the Hajj two months ago,” Sakti said.
Since there was no direct flight from Medan to Pangkal Pinang, which are about 1,000 kilometers apart, he had to fly to Jakarta and take a connecting flight to Pangkal Pinang.
“My daddy has been posted in Bangka Island for two years. He spent the night at a transit hotel in Jakarta’s airport and took the morning flight to Pangkal Pinang,” Effendi’s daughter Dwi Ratna said.
Anugrah Satria, a frequent Lion Air flyer, said he met Alfiani Hidayatul Solikah during his flight and became friends with the 19-year-old flight attendant.
“It was her first job, and it was her wish to become a flight attendant. I met her on one of her first flights as a stewardess on a flight from Jakarta to Yogyakarta,” Satria told Arab News. “She was always nice to passengers, and smiled a lot. She never complained about her job,” Satria said.
The pilot of the brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane, which had only 800 flying hours since its initial operation on Aug. 15, was an Indian from New Delhi, Bhavye Suneja.
Media reports said he was a trainee pilot with Emirates before joining Lion Air in March 2011.
The Indian Embassy in Jakarta confirmed the pilot’s nationality in a tweet, saying that that “most unfortunate that Indian Pilot Bhavye Suneja, who was flying JT610, also lost his life ... Embassy is in touch with Crisis Center and coordinating for all assistance.”
A number of Indonesian officials were also on board the flight, with the Finance Ministry having lost 21 officials, of whom 12 were from the tax office, who were commuting back to their post in Pangkal Pinang.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani visited the police hospital and met the grief-stricken families of her staff on Monday night to console them.
The ministry’s head of communications, Nufransa Wira Sakti, said in a statement that they were officials at the ministry’s Pangkal Pinang office.
“They were heading back to their work after spending the weekend attending a ministry event on Oct. 27 and to attend a coordination meeting, while also spending the weekend with their families in Jakarta,” Sakti said.
Also among the victims were three police personnel from Bangka Belitung police, three officials from the oil and gas directorate general of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, 10 staff from the State Audit Agency, six regional lawmakers of Bangka Belitung province, and four employees of the state-mining company, PT Timah.
Following the crash, Australia issued a warning to ban all Australian government officials and contractors from flying Lion Air or their subsidiary airlines, and the decision will be reviewed when the findings of the crash investigation are clear.
As of Tuesday afternoon, search efforts to collect debris from the plane are still under way, with vessels sailing back and forth to Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok port to drop bags containing plane debris and body parts collected from the crash site, while police forensic teams continued sorting out the debris and personal belongings of the passengers on the dock.
The search and rescue agency’s deputy director for operations, Nugroho Budi, said it had sent 13 body bags to the police hospital from Tuesday’s operation and found 52 national identity cards.
“The search and rescue team will expand the search area to a radius of 15 nautical miles from the crash site,” Budi said in a news conference.
Head of medical and health of the national police, Arthur Tampi, said the forensic team had examined 24 body bags and identified 87 body parts.
Tampi added that they had not been able to identify any of the victims as they received only body parts and none of the bodies were intact.
“The bodies have deterioriated and some of the bones were loose. I even saw parts of an infant body in one of the body bags,” Ari Dono, deputy of the national police chief, said after an inspection in the police hospital morgue.


Gangsters attack train passengers in Hong Kong after night of violent protests

Updated 16 min 51 sec ago
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Gangsters attack train passengers in Hong Kong after night of violent protests

  • Groups of men in white were seen by eye-witnesses with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village
  • The Hospital Authority said 45 people were injured in the Yuen Long attack
HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s opposition Democratic Party is investigating attacks by suspected triad gangsters on train passengers on Sunday, after a night of violence opened new fronts in the political crisis now deepening across the city.
Screams rang out when men, clad in white t-shirts and some armed with poles, flooded into the rural Yuen Long station and stormed a train, attacking passengers, according to footage taken by commuters and Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.
Some passengers had been at an anti-government march and the attack came after several thousand activists surrounded China’s representative office in the city, later clashing with police.
Lam, who was injured in the attack, said he was angry about a slow police response after he alerted them to the trouble, government-funded broadcaster RTHK reported.
Lam said it took police more than an hour to arrive after he alerted them and they had failed to protect the public, allowing the triads to run rampant. The party is now investigating.
“Is Hong Kong now allowing triads to do what they want, beating up people on the street with weapons?,” he asked reporters.
Police said early on Monday they had not made any arrests at the station or during a follow-up search of a nearby village but were still investigating.
Yau Nai-keung, Yuen Long assistant district police commander, told reporters that an initial police patrol had to wait for more reinforcements given a situation involving more than 100 people.
Groups of men in white were seen by eye-witnesses with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village but Yau said police saw no weapons when they arrived.
“We can’t say you have a problem because you are dressed in white and we have to arrest you. We will treat them fairly no matter which camp they are in,” Yau said. Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of sometimes violent protests for more than two months in its most serious crisis since Britain handed the Asian financial hub back to Chinese rule in 1997.
Protesters are demanding the full withdrawal of a bill to allow people to be extradited to mainland China for trial, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party, fearing it would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
They are also demanding independent inquiries into the use of police force against protesters.
On Sunday police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse activists on the edge of Hong Kong’s glittering financial district after they had fled China’s Liaison Office.
The Chinese government has condemned the action, which saw signs and a state symbol daubed with graffiti.
The unrest in Hong Kong marks the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
The Hospital Authority said 45 people were injured in the Yuen Long attack, with one in a critical condition. Some 13 people were injured after the clashes on Hong Kong island, one seriously, the authority said.
Some police had been injured in the clashes after protesters hurled bricks, smoke grenades and petrol bombs, said a police statement.