Indonesia plane crash: India-born Captain Suneja among 188 feared dead

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The Indonesian rescue agency has been carrying out search operation since the crash and over 300 people, including soldiers, police and local fishermen have been pressed into action.

The airline spokesman said the Boeing 737 MAX plane was manufactured this year and had been operated by Lion Air since August 15.

The jet was a Boeing 737 MAX 8, which can carry up to 200 passengers.

Lion Air Group's Chief Executive Edward Sirait earlier told Reuters: "We can not give any comment at this moment".

Lion Air, one of Indonesia's youngest and biggest airlines, said the brand-new aircraft, on a 1-hour-and-10-minute flight to Pangkal Pinang on an island chain off Sumatra, was carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two babies, and eight crew members.

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Lion Air said in a statement that the pilot and co-pilot were experienced, with more than 11,000 flight hours between them.

Indonesian rescuers have retrieved body parts from the water where a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea shortly after take off from the capital, Jakarta.

The disaster is a setback for Indonesia's airline industry, which just emerged from decade long bans by the European Union and the United States over safety concerns.

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The pilot had asked to return to Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport, the head of Pangkal Pinang's search and rescue office, Danang Priandoko, told local news outlet Kompas.

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Lion Air is a budget carrier and has been involved in a number of incidents. Data for Flight 610 on aircraft tracking website FlightAware ends just a few minutes following takeoff.

"When we arrived at the location, we found aircraft debris, a buoy, cellphones, and several objects", said Air Marshal Syaugi at a joint press conference on Monday morning with Indonesia's national transportation safety committee KNKT. "We're confused. We hope that our family is still alive", she said. Plane seats were also sighted among the debris.

Items believed to belong to passengers were found in the water including ID cards and driver's licences, Indonesia's search and rescue agency Basarnas said. The airline reportedly said there was a technical issue with the same aircraft on its previous flight, although it indicated this had been resolved.

Lion Air is considered one of Indonesia's fastest growing and most affordable airlines.

In 2013, Lion Air flight 904 crashed into the sea on landing at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport.

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"It's true that Lion Air JT 610 has lost contact".