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Investigators probe jet's crash into sea in Bali

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, April 14, 2013, 9:27 p.m.
 

BALI, Indonesia — Indonesian investigators on Sunday began working to determine what caused a new Lion Air passenger jet to miss a runway while landing on the resort island of Bali, crashing into the sea without causing any fatalities among the 108 on board.

The National Transportation Safety Committee is examining the wreckage of the Boeing 737-800 that snapped in half before coming to a stop in shallow water near Bali's airport on Saturday, said Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan.

Aviation authorities had removed the plane's flight data recorder and were planning to tow the aircraft to a beach, he said. Divers were searching for the cockpit voice recorder in the tail.

Experts are examining what could have caused the crash, including whether wind shear may have played a role.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced it was sending a team of investigators to assist Indonesian aviation authorities in their probe because the Boeing aircraft was designed and manufactured in the United States. The team will include advisers from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.

The crash marked Lion Air's sixth accident in 11 years and has renewed questions about how safe it is to fly in Indonesia. The country has struggled to clean up its poor air safety record while improving oversight.

All 101 passengers and seven crew members were safely evacuated from the budget carrier's flight, which came from Bandung, the capital of West Java province. Some swam from the wreckage, while others were plucked from the water by rescuers in rubber boats.

Dozens suffered injuries, but most had been released from local hospitals by Sunday.

“I couldn't wait to land in Bali when the cabin suddenly turned dark. I heard a sound like an explosion, and water was coming in,” recalled Irawati, a 60-year-old woman who uses one name, like many Indonesians.

“I heard people shouting frantically: ‘The plane crashed! Get out! Get out!' I did not even have the energy to move my body,” she said. “I was so weak and frightened, and I was asking a flight attendant for help before I passed out.”

Irawati told The Associated Press from her hospital bed that when she regained consciousness, the pilot and co-pilot were putting a life jacket on her and helping her down a rubber ladder. She was then pulled onto a surfboard by rescuers. She suffered neck injuries.

Another survivor, Andi Prasetyo, said there was no warning of a problem.

“The cabin crew had already announced that we would be landing shortly, and I was so excited when I saw the ocean getting closer, but suddenly ... it fell,” he said. “I can't believe that the plane actually landed on the sea, and everything changed to dark. It was full of horrific screaming.

“None of us remembered about the life jackets under our seats. Everybody rushed to get out of the plane.”

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