Lion Air owner Rusdi Kirana bows in apology as grieving and angry families confront him

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

On Monday, November 5, Indonesian officials arranged for a meeting between the families of the victims of downed Lion Air flight JT-610 as well as the search and rescue officials investigating the accident. Lion Air owner, Rusdi Kirana, was also present at the meeting. Though Kirana was not scheduled to speak, he was forced to identify himself by the grieving and outraged families.

Flight JT-610 crashed into the sea within minutes of the takeoff on October 29, killing all 189 passengers on board. The cause of the accident is yet unknown.

Read related: Lion Air’s sketchy safety record: 15 incidents since 2002

The meeting had been moderated by Budi Karya Sumadi, Indonesia’s Transport Minister.

When grieving family members asked Kirana to identify himself whilst seated among the audience, he stood and bowed his head. When the meeting was over he left speedily, refusing to answer questions from members of the media.

The families of the victims were not so silent, however. Father of passenger Shandy Johan Ramadhan, said,

“Lion Air has failed. I want Mr. Rusdi Kirana and his team to pay attention. Since the time of the crisis, I was never contacted by Lion Air. We lost our child, but there was no empathy that Lion Air showed to us.”

Mr. Ramadhan had been a prosecutor in a district of the Bangka, where the plane would have landed.

The grieving families of the victims of flight JT-610 may have to wait for a long time before they receive confirmation of the identities of their loved ones. This far, police have been able to identify 14 victims from the almost 140 body bags of human remains retrieved from the Java Sea.

The families have been asking why the plane, a two-month-old Boeing 737 MAX 8, was given flight clearance at all, given that it had reported technical issues the day before, on a flight from Bali to Jakarta, wherein it descended rapidly right after take-off, much to the terror of passengers on board.

Bambang Sukandar, the father of one of the victims, asked, “Lion Air said the problem was fixed, is it true the problem was cleared? If not, technicians in charge must be responsible. The law is absolute because they have stated that the plane was cleared to take off again. These bad technicians must be processed by law to prevent plane accidents from continuing in Indonesia.”

The head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said in the meeting that the data retrieved from flight data recorder found last week confirms reports that the altitude and the speed of the plane had been erratic.

The second black box on the plane, the cockpit voice recorder, has not yet been found.
Tjahjono also said that the small area where the debris has been located, as well as the copious amounts of debris found there, indicates that the aircraft crashed into the water at high speed.

He said, “The plane was intact when it plunged to the sea, it did not explode in the air, and the aircraft engine was running when it touched the water at high RPM – it’s marked by the loss of all blades of the turbine.”