Now Indonesia's rescue authorities have revealed there were 189 on the flight, including two infants. "We are trying to dive down to find the wreck".
In 2011 and 2012 there was a spate of incidents where pilots were found in possession of methamphetamines, in one incident hours before a flight.
The Max 8 is part of Boeing Co.'s latest narrow-body 737 series.
The flight, which departed at 6.20am this morning (29th October), was expected to land in Pangkal Pinang at 7.20am but lost contact with air traffic controllers at 6.33am.
It was last recorded at 3,650 feet (1,113 m) and its speed had risen to 345 knots, according to raw data captured by the respected tracking website, which could not immediately be confirmed. Its unit Malindo Air was the first in the world to put Boeing's 737 Max plane into service.
The aircraft was brand new and considered among the most advanced planes in the airline's fleet, as were the first Boeing 737 MAX 8s that were delivered to Lion Air a little more than a year ago.
The aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, was purchased this year by Lion Air, Southeast Asia's second-largest low-priced airline. The aircraft was on the way from Indonesian capital Jakarta to the city of Pangkal Pinang.
The Lion Air flight took off from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta worldwide airport at 6.20 am.
According to Indonesian media, TribunNews, the aircraft's final contact was at 06.33 WIB with Jakarta Air Traffic Control.
The plane crashed shortly after taking off from an airport in Indonesia.
The carrier was on the European Union's list of banned air carriers from 2007 through 2016, according to the Aviation Safety Network database maintained by the Flight Safety Foundation.
The most recent was in 2013, when a two-month-old Boeing 737-800 landed in the water short of a runway at Denpasar-Ngurah Rai Bali International Airport. That ban was lifted in June, as the US lifted a decade-long ban in 2016.
Previous year one of its Boeing jets collided with a Wings Air plane as it landed at Kualanamu airport on the island of Sumatra, although no one was injured.
Indonesia is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets - and with 17,000 islands spread over an area stretching for thousands of kilometres, air travel is a fact of life.
Lion Air Flight JT-610 had been flying north from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang when it went missing at around 6:33 a.m. local time.
A passenger plane carrying 188 people has crashed into the sea off Jakarta.