Fifty-six passengers and six crew members were on board, AP reported. Other reports put the figures at 50 passengers as 12 crew members.
Flightradar24, which monitors air traffic, wrote on its Twitter account that the 27-year-old plane “lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta.”
Indonesia’s military had confirmed the plane’s coordinates and sent ships to the location, navy official Abdul Rasyid told Reuters.
As search and rescue efforts expanded, fishermen in the Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta, told local media they had spotted metal objects appearing to be parts of a plane.
Local fisherman Solihin told BBC’s Indonesian service that he saw a crash, prompting him and his captain to turn their boat around.
“The plane fell like lightning into the sea and exploded in the water,” he said. “It was pretty close to us, the shards of a kind of plywood almost hit my ship.”
Indonesian media also aired footage of distraught friends and families of passengers gathered at the Jakarta and Pontianak airports, weeping and praying.
A Boeing statement said that it was “aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information.”
Sriwijaya Air told Reuters it also was still gathering information.
Sriwijaya Air, based out of Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, operates Boeing 737-500 and 737-800 aircraft. It flies primarily within Indonesia, but also operates flights to Malaysia, East Timor and China, according to Cirium, an aviation data firm.
In late 2018, a newer version of the well-used Boeing airliner, dubbed the 737 Max, flown by Indonesian airline Lion Air went down, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
All 737 Max jets were grounded worldwide after a crash five months later in Ethiopia blamed on a design flaw in the flight control system. Investigators later determined that a software flaw and other problems had been overlooked or minimized by company engineers. The 737 Max resumed passenger flights in December.
In 2014, an AirAsia Airbus A320 crashed into the sea, killing 162 people, on a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore.
Lori Aratani in Washington contributed to this report.
Go to the news source: Indonesian plane with 62 aboard missing; fishermen spot possible debris