Divers search Indonesian plane wreck for black boxes

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Jakarta (AFP)

Indonesian divers searched the waters off Jakarta on Monday for black boxes in the passenger jet with 62 people on board that crashed over the weekend, as investigators took charge of identifying the mutilated remains the victims.

Searching for the boxes – cockpit voice and flight data recorders – could offer crucial clues as to why Sriwijaya Air’s Boeing 737-500 plunged to 3,000 meters in less than a minute before sinking. crash into the Java Sea.

Investigators have so far offered little explanation as to why the plane crashed about four minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, but said on Sunday they had identified the location of the black boxes.

Some of the 2,600 personnel working in the recovery effort involving dozens of boats and helicopters carry body parts, twisted pieces of wreckage and passenger clothing from shallow water around 23 meters (23 meters) ( 75 feet) deep.

Underwater photos provided by the Indonesian Navy showed a seabed littered with wrecks.

Body bags filled with human remains were doused with disinfectant in Jakarta’s main port before being taken to a police hospital where investigators hope to identify the victims by matching the DNA of their remains to living relatives.

All 62 passengers and crew aboard the half-full flight were Indonesians. The count included 10 children.

“Today we are expanding the search area … and collecting anything we can recover, debris or casualties,” Rasman MS, search and rescue agency crash operations chief, said Monday.

“It’s going to be a 24/7 operation. There won’t be any breaks. The sooner we can find victims, the better. ”

– Last disaster –

The investigation into the crash – the latest in a series of disasters for Indonesia’s aviation industry – will likely take months.

Aviation analysts said flight following data showed the plane deviated sharply from its intended course before embarking on a steep dive, with bad weather, pilot error and mechanical malfunction. among the potential factors.

Stephen Wright, professor of aviation systems at the University of Tampere in Finland, said the plane’s relatively slow air speed was a red flag.

“Something quite dramatic happened after takeoff,” he added.

Sriwijaya Air, which operates flights to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has said little about the 26-year-old plane, which was previously flown by US-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines.

The Indonesian carrier has not recorded any fatal accidents since it began operations in 2003.

But the Southeast Asian nation’s fast-growing aviation sector has long been plagued by security concerns, and its airlines were once banned from entering US and European airspace. .

In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX plane crashed near Jakarta.

That crash – and another in Ethiopia – saw Boeing fined $ 2.5 billion for defrauding regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which has been grounded around the world in the wake of the crashes.

The 737 model that dropped on Saturday was first produced decades ago and was not a MAX variant.

In 2014, an AirAsia plane bound for Surabaya in Singapore crashed, killing 162 people.

A year later, more than 140 people, including dozens on the ground, were killed when a military plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Medan on the island of Sumatra.

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