The pilot of the downed Lion Air flight asked to turn back shortly before it crashed into the sea off Indonesia

HADI SUTRISNO/AFP/Getty ImagesFamily members of the crashed Indonesian Lion Air JT-610 react at Pangkal Pinang airport, in Bangka Belitung province on October 29, 2018.

The pilot of a Lion Air plane that crashed into the sea off Indonesia on Monday morning asked air traffic controllers to let him turn back minutes before the plane went down.

Flight JT 610 left the Indonesian capital of Jakarta at 6:20 a.m. local time headed for the city of Pangkal Pinang on the island of Bangka, the plane-monitoring site Flight Radar said.

The plane fell into coastal waters off the island of Java about 13 minutes after takeoff. Hours later, all 189 people aboard the flight were feared dead.

The flight’s pilot, Bhavye Suneja, asked air traffic control for permission to return to Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport just two or three minutes after the plane took off, Reuters reported.

The request was approved, but communications from the plane went silent before it fell into the sea minutes later.

“We hope the black box is not far from the main wreckage so it can be found soon,” Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of Indonesia’s transport safety committee, told Reuters.

According to Channel News Asia, investigators view the so-called black box, which saves all plane data during a flight, as key to working out what went wrong with the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Muhammad Syaugi, the head of the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency, told Reuters that officials had not received a distress signal from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter.

Emergency transmitters are designed to send out a location when planes crash, but the one aboard Flight JT 610 didn’t transmit a signal.

The plane was brand new and had been in use only since August. Boeing, the aircraft maker, said it was “deeply saddened” by the plane’s downing and “stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation.”

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a public-relations officer for the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management, tweeted these photos of divers at the crash site:

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