Indonesian divers search for black boxes from crashed plane


Jakarta (AFP)

Indonesian divers returned to a wreckage-strewn seabed off Jakarta on Tuesday in their search for the black boxes that will likely be the key to unraveling the mystery of a crashed passenger plane carrying 62 people.

Some 3,600 personnel are participating in the recovery effort, aided by dozens of boats and helicopters flying over small islands off the coast of the capital.

Underwater footage from the Indonesian Navy showed divers probing the murky depths as they combed through the twisted wreckage of Sriwijaya Air’s Boeing 737-500, which plunged about 10,000 feet ( 3,000 meters) in less than a minute before crashing into the Java Sea on Saturday.

Authorities have so far been unable to explain why the 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after takeoff.

But they say they have the approximate location of the black boxes after picking up signals from the devices, which record information about the aircraft’s speed, altitude and direction as well as flight crew conversations.

Black box data helps explain nearly 90% of all crashes, according to aviation experts.

But the boxes could be hidden under layers of mud or plane wreckage in waters about 23 meters (75 feet) deep, and divers have to deal with a strong current and adverse weather conditions.

“They have to get through garbage and other debris (on the seabed) and mud and visibility are also a challenge,” said Yusuf Latif, a spokesperson for the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency, on Tuesday.

The agency deployed a remotely operated vehicle to assist divers, as investigators examined parts recovered from the wreckage at the port.

– First victim –

Dozens of body bags filled with human remains were taken to a police morgue where investigators hope to identify the victims by matching fingerprints or DNA with distraught relatives.

On Monday evening, authorities identified flight attendant Okky Bisma, 29, as the first confirmed victim after matching the fingerprints of a recovered hand to those of a government identity database.

There were 10 children among the passengers on the half-full plane, which had experimented with pilot-in-command as it left Jakarta for the town of Pontianak on the island of Borneo for a 90-minute flight.

National Transportation Safety Committee investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said on Monday that the crew had not declared an emergency or reported technical issues before their dive.

Available data suggests that it was “very likely” that the plane was intact when it struck the water on Saturday, he added.

The crash investigation would likely last for 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.

– Irregular record –

Sriwijaya Air, which flies to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has experienced relatively minor safety incidents including runway overruns, but has not had a fatal accident since it began operations in 2003.

The Boeing plane that crashed on Saturday was previously flown by Continental Airlines and United Airlines.

Indonesia’s growing aviation sector has long been plagued by security concerns, and its airlines were once banned from US and European airspace.

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

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

In 2014, an Indonesia 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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