An Indonesian plane carrying more than 100 passengers broke in two after missing the runway at Bali airport Saturday and landing in the sea, leaving dozens injured but no fatalities.
The Boeing 737-800 was operated by budget airline Lion Air, a rapidly expanding carrier which recently sealed blockbuster orders for hundreds of new planes but which is banned from US and European airspace over safety concerns.
The domestic flight ended with passengers screaming in terror as the aircraft hit the water after missing the runway at the popular resort island’s Denpasar airport, despite fine weather.
The plane came to rest partially submerged in the water not far from the end of the runway, with inflatable slides deployed from the front exits and a gaping crack in the fuselage towards the rear.
Passengers in life jackets could be seen in the water.
“The plane was about to land when suddenly it fell into the sea. People on board panicked and began screaming,” a passenger named Dewi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP, her voice still shaking.
She received light head injuries and was taken to Denpasar hospital.
“There were 45 passengers who needed hospital treatment after being injured, but I cannot say whether their injuries were light or serious,” an airport spokeswoman told AFP.
Bali is a hugely popular holiday destination, welcoming millions of foreign tourists from around the world every year.
Three foreigners were on board the Lion Air flight — a Frenchman, a Singaporean woman and a Singaporean man, according to the airport’s head of communications.
Transport ministry official Herry Bhakti initially said the plane overshot the runway, but later clarified his comments to say it landed straight in the water. Officials said they were still determining exactly why it ditched.
A Lion Air spokesman said the aircraft was arriving from the city of Bandung in West Java province with 101 passengers and seven crew members on board. The passengers included 95 adults, five children, and one baby.
He said the aircraft was relatively new, having started operating in 2012, and that the national transportation safety committee “will investigate the cause of the incident”.
“The plane broke into two pieces,” he said, adding that “judging from visual observation, the plane cannot be used any more”.
Lion Air, a little-known carrier launched 13 years ago with just one plane, has in recent times struck two of the world’s largest aircraft orders in a staggering $46 billion bet on Indonesia’s air transport boom.
France announced last month that Indonesia’s fastest-growing airline had agreed to buy 234 medium-haul A320 jets worth $23.8 billion (18.4 billion euros) from European aerospace giant Airbus.
That came after Lion Air astounded the industry with a $22.4 billion deal for 230 Boeing 737 airliners, inked in 2011 during a visit to Indonesia by US President Barack Obama.
But experts have raised concerns that the airline’s rapid growth could put safety at risk, with some pointing out that there is a lack of qualified pilots in Indonesia to fly the fast-increasing number of planes.
Lion Air is banned from European Union and US airspace, while in Indonesia it has a poor reputation for safety and reliability.
Between 2004 and 2006, it suffered a series of six accidents, in which no one died, and which all involved planes overshooting the runway or missing it entirely.
Founded in 1999 by brothers Kusnan and Rusdi Kirana, who are ranked the 33rd richest Indonesians with collective wealth of $900 million, Lion Air is the first private airline in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation.
Its 72 destinations are mostly in Indonesia, and the furthest it flies is to Saudi Arabia — a route mostly packed with domestic workers and construction labourers.