Barely 48 hours after Sriwijaya plane crashed with 62 people on-board, the Indonesian Government has disclosed recovery of the ill-fated plane black box and obtained communications data, as well as identified a victim from the flight.
The government added that emergency crews would be deploying a remotely operated underwater vehicle to search for victims of the Boeing 737-500 plane that crashed into the Java sea after taking off from Jakarta’s main airport.
Confirming the recovery on Monday, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said that the two black boxes from Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 have been detected within 150 to 200 meters (492 to 656 feet) of the crash site.
Indonesia Navy Commander Admiral, Yudo Margono, said: “We have two spots that highly suspected as a location of two black boxes. But unfortunately, there is a lot of debris around those spots,”
Margono said that a diving team was working to clear out debris for easy movement in the water and that they hoped to recover the devices soon.
The government, meanwhile, identified the victim as Okky Bisma, a flight attendant on the ill-fated plane, who was identified through his fingerprints.
To fast-track the rescue operations, the emergency officials deployed divers that scoured the sea bed and retrieved human remains, personal possessions, as well as pieces of plane wreckage until fading light ended the search.
In an interview with newsmen after the exercise, the director of search and rescue operation, Rasman MS, said: “The quicker we can find victims, the better”.
The Boeing 737-500 jet was headed on a domestic flight to Pontianak on Borneo island, about 740 km (460 miles) from Jakarta, on Saturday before it disappeared from radar screens.
It was the second major air crash in Indonesia since 189 passengers and crew were killed in 2018 when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX also plunged into the Java Sea soon after taking off. The jet that crashed on Saturday is a largely different design.
The search team had narrowed down the suspected location of the “black box” flight recorders and the remote-controlled vehicle would help scan the sea bed, navy chief of staff Yudo Margono said.
“There is so much debris down there and we have only lifted a few pieces. Hopefully, as we take out more they (the recorders) can be found,” Yudo told reporters aboard a ship.
An investigator at Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), Nurcahyo Utomo, said that the jet may have been intact before it hit the water, given the debris appeared to have scattered in a relatively tight area underwater.
Once the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are found, the KNKT expects to be able to read the information in three days, Nurcahyo said.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will automatically be involved in the investigation, with technical support from Boeing as needed.
Tracking service Flightradar24 said the aircraft took off at 2:36 p.m. local time (0736 GMT) and climbed to 10,900 feet within four minutes. It then began a steep descent and stopped transmitting data 21 seconds later.
The Sriwijaya Airplane was nearly 27 years old, much older than Boeing’s problem-plagued 737 MAX model. Older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the stall-prevention system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.
With few immediate clues on what caused a catastrophic loss of control after take-off, investigators will rely heavily on retrieving the two flight recorders intact from the seabed.
They will also study maintenance and engine records, pilot rosters and training, air traffic recordings, and other data.