JAKARTA | Divers on Tuesday recovered one of the Boeing’s black boxes which crashed this weekend off the coast of Indonesia with 62 people on board, which could give valuable clues to understanding the causes of the disaster.
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“The FDR (Flight data recorder, which records the flight parameters NDLR) has been found”, announced the Minister of Transport Budi Karya Sumadi.
Investigators received a strong signal on Tuesday and sent divers who got their hands on the flight recorder after an hour of searching, said an AFP journalist who was on board a boat from Marine.
FDR data should be available after “two to five days”, if all goes well, and could begin to reveal the circumstances of the accident, said Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of the Transport Security Agency.
The other black box remains to be found, the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which has lost its beacon.
The authorities have not yet given any clues as to what may have caused the crash of the 26-year-old aircraft just minutes after taking off from Jakarta.
Sriwijaya Air’s Boeing 737-500 suddenly fell some 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) in less than a minute and plunged into the Java Sea.
Some 3,600 people, including soldiers and rescuers, were mobilized Tuesday to quickly retrieve the remains of the 62 passengers and crew, all Indonesians, as well as parts of the plane and black boxes.
Images released by the Navy showed divers swimming amid the debris, with dozens of boats present and helicopters.
First victim identified
Several dozen bags were filled with human remains collected from the sea and were transferred to a police hospital in Jakarta where investigators are working to identify them.
“We still cannot accept it,” said Inda Gunawan of the disappearance of her brother Didik Gunardi who was in the Boeing.
“Our family still hopes for a miracle and that he is alive.”
The police identified a first victim, Okky Bisma, a 29-year-old flight attendant, thanks to the fingerprints of one of his hands brought to the surface.
“Rest in peace up there my darling and wait for me (…) in paradise”, wrote his wife Aldha Refa on his Instagram account.
Ten children were on board the Boeing on its way to Pontianak, a town on the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.
The relatives of the victims are asked to give DNA extracts for identification.
An Indonesian Transportation Safety Agency investigator explained that the crew did not issue a distress signal before the crash and the plane was likely still intact when it hit the water.
Rescue service chief Soerjanto Tjahjono confirmed this analysis on Tuesday, pointing out that the debris was in a fairly small area when it would have been scattered in the event of an in-flight explosion.
“The size (of the area) corresponds to the assumption that the plane did not explode before reaching the water.”
And “the damage to the blades of the recovered reactor also shows that the engine was still running” at the time of the crash.
According to aviation specialists, flight data indicates that the aircraft deviated sharply from its intended path before crashing down. They point out that the investigation into the causes of the accident could take months.
This is the first fatal accident involving Sriwijaya since the company’s inception in 2003.
But Indonesia’s airline industry has seen regular tragedies in recent years, and several Indonesian airlines were banned in Europe until 2018.
In October 2018, 189 people died in the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX operated by Lion Air that also crashed in the Java Sea, twelve minutes after taking off from Jakarta.