'Black Box' From Indonesian Jet That Went Down With 62 On Board Recovered From Ocean Floor

Tuesday, January 12th 2021, 6:04 am
By: CBS News

Jakarta, Indonesia — Indonesian navy divers searching the ocean floor have recovered one of the "black box" data recorders from the Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea with 62 people on board. The recovery of the flight data recorder is expected to help investigators determine what caused the Boeing 737-500 plane to nosedive into the ocean shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on Saturday.

TV stations on Tuesday showed divers on an inflatable vessel with a large white container containing the data recorder. 

Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi confirmed in a news conference on Tuesday that the device recovered was the flight data recorder. Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said at the same event that he was highly confident the the other black box, the cockpit voice recorder, would be found soon, but there was no indication that divers had pinpointed it yet.

The flight data recorder was to be handed over to the National Transportation Safety Committee, which is overseeing the crash investigation. A navy ship earlier picked up intense pings being emitted from both of the boxes, which officials said were buried in the seabed under tons of sharp objects in the wreckage.

Videos released Monday and Tuesday by Indonesia's national search and rescue agency and the navy showed divers peering through murky water, inspecting large pieces of debris in mud on the seafloor and searching for the black boxes.

Navy Chief Admiral Yudo Margono said earlier that removing large obstacles was slowing efforts to reach the devices. A remote-operated vehicle was sent to the black box location, and Margono said at least 160 divers were deployed to help in the search for the black boxes.

The devices detached from the tail of the aircraft when it crashed, and the search for them was concentrated between Lancang and Laki islands in the Thousand Island chain just north of Jakarta.

More than 3,600 rescue personnel, 13 helicopters, 54 large ships and 20 small boats are searching the area and have already found parts of the plane and human remains in the water at a depth of about 75 feet.

The searchers have sent at least 74 body bags containing human remains to police identification experts who on Monday said they had identified their first victim, 29-year-old flight attendant Okky Bisma.

His wife, Aldha Refa, who is also a flight attendant for Sriwijaya Air, shared her grief in a series of posts on social media.

"My husband is a loving, devout and super kind man," she wrote on Instagram. "Heaven is your place, dear ... be peaceful there."

Anguished family members have been providing samples for DNA tests and police say results are expected in 4-8 days.

National Police spokesman Rusdi Hartono said about 53 samples for DNA testing have been collected but more are still needed, especially from parents and children of victims.

Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee said the United States' National Transportation Safety Board would join in investigating the crash.

Indonesian NTSC chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, ruled out a possible midair breakup after seeing the condition of the wreckage found by searchers. He said the jet was intact until it struck the water, concentrating the debris field, rather than spreading it out over a large area as would be seen with a midair event.

The disaster has reignited concerns about safety in Indonesia's aviation industry, which grew fast after the economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. The United States had banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, lifting the action in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union lifted a similar ban in 2018.

Sriwijaya Air has had only minor safety incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when a plane went off the runway while landing due to a hydraulic issue.

In 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air crashed, killing 189 people. An automated flight-control system played a role in that crash, but the Sriwijaya Air jet did not have that system on board.

First published on January 12, 2021 / 5:47 AM

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