Lion Air Crash: When Covering Tragedy Takes A Toll

At my feet were two body bags labelled "korban", which is Bahasa for "victim".

We were in an old wooden Indonesian fishing boat, 34 nautical miles off the coast of West Java, hoping it wouldn't sink.

The bemused fisherman who owned it asked for two million rupiah ($200AUD) to take us out, and we wondered if it would be worth the gamble.

But we needed to get to the search zone of Lion Air flight JT610, which had fallen from the sky and crashed into the water shortly after taking off from Jakarta, three days earlier.

10 News First journalist Candice Wyatt with the search party off the coast of Indonesia. (Image: Supplied)

My cameraman Anthony Fitzpatrick (Fitzy) and I wanted to get footage of the search unfolding in the background.

But what happened next was more incredible than we could have ever imagined.

Word filtered through that the navy divers, who were within reach of us, had found something.

Signals from the doomed plane had led them to this exact spot, and they marked it with a bright pink buoy.

They had found the plane and we were there.

We shot our piece to camera and then decided to go over to the giant Search and Rescue vessels which had all banked next to each other in the middle of the sea.

But when we got within reach, our fisherman and my Indonesian based fixer, Daniel Henry, spoke to the crew in Bahasa and the next thing I knew, we were being welcomed aboard.

Luggage and debris from the crashed Lion Air salvaged from the Indonesian coast (Image: 10 News First)

We were shocked, but we quickly scrambled out of our rickety boat and onto the ships to a bemused but friendly welcome from the crew.

Then I looked down.

At my feet were two body bags labelled "KORBAN", which is Bahasa for "VICTIM".

I was standing next to the human remains they'd found after a full day of searching.

READ MORECrashed Lion Air Plane's Black Box Found

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Next to those bags were three others but I was assured they contained debris from the plane, along with clothing and possessions.

The bag of debris was opened so we could film its contents and the smell was one I'll never forget.

We interviewed one of the bosses and I asked him how he felt about the task ahead. It's a big job to be in charge of bringing home the dead.

"There is deep sadness in our hearts, but also we're responsible to find the evidence because we are the search and rescue team," he told me.

"It is our responsibility to face everything and also bring all the evidence back to the plane and everything that comes up and we feel sorry. Condolences to the victims."

The heat on the ship was stifling and as the divers took a cigarette break, we had sweat dripping down our faces and pouring down our backs.

The conditions had been similar the day before, when we were standing on burning concrete at Jakarta's main port, watching the search boats return.

They removed only one body bag. The rest was yet more plane debris, which they treated delicately and with respect.

It was laid out in front of the cameras, yet more pieces of metal, and foam from the seats.

READ MORE: Man Missed Doomed Lion Air Flight Due To Traffic, His Colleagues Are Feared Dead

READ MORE: Doomed Lion Air Plane Had 'Air Speed' Problems On Prior Flight: Officials

Then tape went up. We were pushed back and an entourage of black 4WD vehicles with blocked out windows rolled in.

Out of them poured men in black pants and white shirts who started running around manically and shoving people.

President Joko Widodo was about to arrive, unannounced.

His motorcade pulled up to the port, and the President stepped out and started inspecting the debris.

Search and rescue teams sift through the wreckage as media watch on. (Image: Supplied)

He then shook the hands of each of the search and rescue crew who had assembled in a line to salute him.

189 people died in Indonesia's worst air disaster in 20 years and not everyone's remains will be found.

There are indications Lion Air knew something was wrong with this plane on Sunday. But the airline claims it was fixed and put it back into service on Monday.

Now, it sits on the bottom of the Java Sea. And a piece of my heart sits there with it.