Bad traffic saved Indonesian official from doomed flight

Mr Sony Setiawan speaking to reporters after arriving in Pangkal Pinang on a later flight on Monday, after missing the ill-fated JT610.
Mr Sony Setiawan speaking to reporters after arriving in Pangkal Pinang on a later flight on Monday, after missing the ill-fated JT610. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • An Indonesian man has described how Jakarta's notorious traffic saved his life on Monday after he arrived too late to catch the doomed Lion Air plane which plunged into the sea minutes after taking off.

Mr Sony Setiawan, an official in Indonesia's Finance Ministry, was supposed to be on board the ill-fated flight, a journey he and his colleagues made weekly.

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 flight," Mr Setiawan said. "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," he said on Monday.

But Mr Setiawan said any gratitude he felt was marred by the knowledge that so many people, including six of his colleagues, were not so fortunate.

"The first time I heard, I cried," he said. "I know my friends were on that flight."

Mr Setiawan said he managed to catch a second flight to Pangkal Pinang city in Bangka Belitung province, and learnt of the crash only after he landed. 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.

 

The Finance Ministry said about 20 of its employees were on the plane.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2018, with the headline 'Bad traffic saved Indonesian official from doomed flight'. Print Edition | Subscribe