On Monday the 29th October 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport. Flight JT 610 was bound for Pangkal Pinang, but the plane hurtled into the Java Sea just 13 minutes after taking off. In the aftermath of headlines breaking around the world, one story has captured the hearts of readers and social media users. As traumatic pictures of the scene were broadcast on television and published online, a phone case, which featured a photo of a couple, was shared across social media platforms. In the days following the crash, the couple was identified by social media users.
The story of the recovered phone case
Lion Air flight JT 610 crashed at 06:33 on Monday 29th October, and all 189 passengers and crew members were presumed dead. As news of the tragedy broke, footage from the crash scene started to emerge on news channels and websites. One picture, which was shared by Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, garnered a tremendous amount of attention. Amid the debris and dirt, lay a phone case and part of a boarding card. The case featured a photograph of a couple, with their arms linked, walking across a bridge. As more and more people became aware of the story, the picture was shared hundreds of times on social media sites, and, according to the BBC, Instagram users eventually linked the image to Ine Yunita Savitri.
BBC reports suggested that Ms Savitri had not been travelling on the Lion Air flight, but claimed that the phone case belonged to her husband, a passenger on the plane. Mr Wahjoe Noegrohantoro was one of the 189 people presumed dead, and he was later identified by his nephew, who spotted the phone case when looking at images on social media. Antonius Hartono was informed by his mother that his uncle had been on the flight, and shortly afterwards, he saw the photograph. Speaking about the incident, he told reporters that he felt a sense of great sadness every time he saw the snap of the couple looking happy together. Only a week before the incident, the family had gathered for a holiday, with nobody aware that this would be the last time they spent time together. Another relative, a cousin of Mr Noegrohantoro, also expressed her sorrow after seeing the image on Facebook.
The image of the phone case has attracted interest all over the world, with thousands of people paying their respects to passengers lost in the crash and offering their condolences to those they have left behind. Ms Savitri, the owner of the image, has privatised her account in the aftermath of the incident.
The power of social media
Social media played a pivotal role in the identification of the couple featured on the phone case recovered from the crash scene, but it has also contributed to a surge in interest in others who were part of this horrific tale. The crew was named in news reports following the accident and people took to social media to find out more. Crew member, Alviani Hidayatul Solika, had posted an Instagram story just a few hours before the ill-fated flight. She had only been flying for a few months, and her profile included pictures of her and her colleagues on board one of her first flights in July. On the days after the crash, the account’s follower numbers rose from 2,000 to over 36,000.
Billions of people use social media sites all over the world, and the story of the couple that was identified from an image of a phone rescued from the wreckage shows just how powerful and influential it can be. Social media users shared the image to try and gather more information about the photograph and the people in it, but they also used platforms to share their grief and offer their condolences and thoughts.
Many of us social media to keep in touch with friends and family, especially those overseas, but occasionally, you come across a story that grips you even though you’ve never heard of the people involved. This is what happened with the tale of the mobile phone case. A single image generated a tremendous amount of interest, which lead to the identification of a couple separated by the tragedy, and a collective outpouring across a number of channels. Geographically, the world is vast, but social media shows just how small it can be.