'SOS' Sign Found On An Indonesian Island On Google Maps, Following Deadly Air Crash


The social media sphere was shocked when Twitters users started sharing a screenshot of Google Maps showing a location on the Laki Island at the Thousand Islands in the northern of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

What made the findings viral is that, the island is close to the crash point of the Sriwijaya Air SJ 182 plane on January 9, 2021.

The screenshot showed a location on the island that reads 'SOS' and 'TOLONGGG' (Indonesian for 'Help'). Clicking on the label will reveal 'Kami Masih Hidup' (Indonesian for 'We're still alive'), with a phone number to contact Sriwijaya Air.

Netizens that interpreted the signs as a request for help, assumed that the the signs came from surviving passengers of the doomed flight.

Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said that the SOS signs on Island of Laki were fake, as explained by Basarnas Director of Operations Brigadier General Rasman MS.

"Until now, I have not received the information, I have not received the data. We will check it according to the information provided," initially said Rasman at JICT II, ​​Tanjung Priok, in North Jakarta.

Laki island SOS
The Laki Island in the Java Sea off the Thousand Islands in Indonesia with the SOS sign.

Rasman emphasized that his party had never received any information about any survivors of the plane crash.

"Until now, we have no information that any passengers are alive," he said.

According to Rasman, the SOS sign could have been the act of fishermen.

Indonesia is an archipelago country consisting of more than 17,000 islands. Many of its population that live in the coastal lines of the islands live from the sea.

Rasman said that the island is frequently visited by fishermen in the area to take shelter when the weather is bad.

Or, the signs may have also came from members of the rescue teams themselves, which have posts around Lancang Island and the Laki Island, so divers and other rescue team members could better search and evacuate plane debris.

"Because of that, our friends could be there," he continued.

Later, it was said that Basarnas checked and again rechecked the location and found nothing there.

"Nothing. There are no signs of it, no one (survivors) was there," Rasman later said.

In fact, the two islands were some of the very first places the SAR teams investigated early in the joint operation with other rescuer teams due to their close proximity to the plane's crash site.

Following the finding, the signs have been removed from the Google Maps app.

"We have removed the icon in that location from Google Maps," said a Google Indonesia representative.

The company explained that data on Google Maps comes from various sources, including third-party providers, public sources, and user contributions.

Google users for example, can report data or edit content and labels on Google Maps. They can, for example, add missing places and more, they can also fix addresses, fix a road and more.

Because of these various reasons, Google realizes that the data may not be accurate.

Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ 182 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, Indonesia. On 9 January 2021, the Boeing 737-524 that flew with 62 people on board crashed into the Java Sea off the Thousand Islands, only four minutes after departing from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport.

All passengers and crews on board the flight are presumed dead.

At this time, the SAR teams are still combing the area, recovering wreckage from the plane's fuselage, items, human remains, but found no survivors.

Recovering Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ 182
Basarnas and other rescue teams work day and night to bring to shore whatever they can find of the doomed Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ 182. (Credit: Faizal Fanani)