Divers searched the ocean floor near the Indonesian capital on Wednesday for the cockpit records of a crashed passenger plane after investigators said it would be days before they could read the flight data recorder that had already been rescued.
The two “black boxes” could provide critical clues as to why the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 fell about 3,000 meters in less than a minute before slamming 62 people into the Java Sea shortly after taking off on Saturday.
Divers off the coast of Jakarta brought the data recorder to the surface on Tuesday. The hunt now focused on finding a voice recorder on the debris-strewn seabed.
The discovery came from a team from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ready to join the investigation in the capital, along with employees from Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration and engine manufacturer GE Aviation.
“The search continues today and we hope for a good result,” Rasman MS, operations director of the search and rescue agency, told reporters on Wednesday.
The head of the agency, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said the day before that the investigators had hoped to be able to download data from the black box within a few days so that “we can uncover the secret behind this accident”.
Black box data includes the speed, altitude, and direction of the aircraft as well as conversations with the flight crew and, according to aviation professionals, helps explain almost 90 percent of all crashes.
So far, the authorities have not been able to explain why the 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after taking off from Jakarta for Pontianak on the 90-minute flight island Borneo.
More than 3,000 people are taking part in the recovery effort, aided by dozens of boats and helicopters flying over small islands off the coast of the capital.
A remote-controlled vehicle was used to assist the divers, but strong currents and monsoons can make the task difficult.
“It is not easy to find victims and parts of the torso, as the debris and human remains are usually in small pieces so they can easily drift away,” said Agus Haryono of the search and rescue agency’s crash team.
The gruesome task of looking for mutilated body parts can also take a psychological toll.
Newer divers “feel uncomfortable or even scared, especially when retrieving remains at night,” Haryono said.
“But over time, they get mentally stronger to face these situations.”
Three other victims were identified by comparing fingerprints in the files with body parts that came from the murky depths, the authorities said on Wednesday, including a 50-year-old passenger and a 38-year-old female pilot.
Among the passengers there were 10 children in the half-full aircraft, which pilots had seen at the controls.
Numerous body bags filled with human remains were taken to a police morgue where forensic investigators hoped to identify the victims with relatives by comparing fingerprints or DNA.
Authorities said the crew did not report any emergency or technical problems with the aircraft prior to the dive, and the 737 was likely intact when it hit the water – citing a relatively small area where the wreck was scattered .
The crash probe would likely take months, but a preliminary report was expected in 30 days.
Aviation analysts said flight tracking data showed that the aircraft was deviating significantly from its intended course before going on a steep dive, with poor weather, pilot errors, or mechanical failure among possible factors.
The accident has generated some misinformation online, including a few pictures that claim to show a baby who survived the weekend crash. The pictures actually show a child rescued from a fatal boat disaster in 2018.
Sriwijaya Air, which flies to destinations in Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, has had security incidents including runway violations.
However, there has been no fatal crash since it was commissioned in 2003.
The CEO said the jet, which was previously flown by U.S.-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines, was in good shape.
Indonesia’s fast-growing aviation sector has long been plagued by safety 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 crashed near Jakarta.
This accident – and another in Ethiopia – resulted in the 737 MAX being grounded worldwide via a faulty anti-stall system.
The 737, which failed on Saturday, was first produced decades ago and was not a MAX variant.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)