‘Lucky’ man misses ill-fated flight
AN INDONESIAN man was minutes away from boarding the doomed Lion Air plane yesterday but Jakarta's notorious traffic caused him to miss the flight.
Sony Setiawan, an official in Indonesia's finance ministry, was meant to board the ill-fated flight JT610, a journey he and his colleagues caught on a weekly basis.
But while his friends battled their way through Jakarta's daily congestion to make the flight, Mr Setiawan found himself stuck on a toll road for hours.
"I usually take (flight) JT610 - my friends and I always take this plane," Setiawan told AFP.
"I don't know why the traffic at the toll road was so bad. I usually arrive in Jakarta at 3am but this morning I arrived at the airport at 6.20am and I missed the flight."
Jakarta, a sprawling megacity of more than 10 million people, is known for having some of South-East Asia's worst traffic congestion.
Its poor planning and overwhelming congestion is a daily source of frustration for commuters, especially around Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
Mr Setiawan arrived at the airport just as the plane was taking off.
Around 13 minutes later, just after 6.30am local time, the plane crashed into the sea.
While the gridlock Mr Setiawan was stuck in saved his life, any gratitude the finance official felt was tinged with heartbreak after he realised most of his colleagues had managed to make the flight.
"The first time I heard, I cried," he told AFP. "I know my friends were on that flight."
The finance ministry confirmed to reporters around 20 of its employees were on board the plane.
Mr Setiawan, from Bandung in West Java, said he managed to catch a second flight to Pangkal Pinang city and only learned of the crash once he landed safely.
The call he made to his briefly stricken family was filled with emotion.
"My family was in shock and my mother cried, but I told them I was safe, so I just have to be grateful," he said.
Mr Setiawan was supposed to be the 190th person on board the Lion Air flight before it plunged into the Java Sea with 189 people on-board.
'WE WANT TO SEE HIS BODY, HIS FACE, HIS REMAINS'
Friends and family of the 189 victims are beginning to mourn the mammoth loss.
As rescuers fish belongings out of the water and specialist divers begin to recover victims' body parts, authorities say it was "likely" everyone on board was killed.
Latief Nurbana and his wife Yeti Eka Sumiati lost their 24-year-old son Lutfi Nuramdani in the crash.
Nurbana said they talked until falling asleep and Sumiati woke up early to take their son, a post office worker, to the airport.
"Last night, we were chatting together about his wife who is now seven months' pregnant, his plans and his dreams with his own small family until we fell asleep," he said as his wife wept and clung to him.
"Now he's gone. We can't believe that he left us this way; we can't believe that his plane crashed. That's something we only see on TV news, now it happened to my son," Nurbana said.
"We want to see his body, his face, his remains."
More than 300 people including soldiers, police and fishermen are involved in the grim search, retrieving aircraft debris and personal items such as a crumpled phone, ID cards and carry-on bags from the seas northeast of Jakarta.
The wife of Deryl Fida Febrianto shared a chilling photo her husband of less than two weeks sent to her minutes before the crash.
Mr Febrianto had been texting his wife Lutfinani Eka Putri on the doomed JT-610 flight, sending her a selfie of himself on the plane at 6.01am.
The pair messaged until 6.12am before the plane took off at 6.20am.
"When I saw the news, I matched the flight number with the ticket photo Deryl had sent," Ms Putri told reporters.
"I immediately started crying."