Wreckage of Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 found, search for black box continues

F.P Report

JAKARTA: The debris of the crashed Indonesian plane has been found on Monday. The news agencies have reported that Indonesian divers have been searching the Java Sea for wreckage and passengers belongings in hope of finding the black boxes from the jet which crashed on Saturday with 62 people on board.

Underwater footage of their rescue mission shows the divers examining the huge amount of debris from the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500. Investigators are of the view that it was still intact when it smashed into the sea.

The divers found a child’s Marvel backpack as they sifted through the wreckage from the plane which had plunged 10,000ft in a minute before the crash. All 62 passengers and crew aboard the flight was Indonesian, including seven children and three babies.

News agencies revealed that, approximately 2,600 personnel are working in the recovery effort. In this mission dozens of boats and helicopters hauling body parts, twisted piece of wreckage and passengers’ clothing from shallow waters about 75ft deep.

In addition, body bags filled with human remains are being taken to a police hospital where investigators hope to identify victims by matching DNA from their remains to living relatives.

According to the investigators the 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, but say they do know the location of the black boxes in the sea.

Retrieving the bright orange boxes – cockpit voice and flight data recorders will likely help explain why the jet plunged so quickly.  They’re built to survive at vast depths and in extreme heat, and are fitted with a beacon which can emit a signal for one month.

Sources say that the devices record information about the speed, altitude and direction of the plane as well as flight crew conversations, and help explain nearly 90 percent of all crashes, according to aviation experts.

The plane’s captain, Afwan, a 54-year-old father of three, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was a former air force pilot with decades of flying under his belt.

An investigator with Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said the jet possibly broke apart when it hit waters based on debris found so far.

Aviation analysts said flight-tracking data showed the plane sharply deviated from its intended course before it went into a steep dive, with bad weather, pilot error and mechanical malfunction among the potential factors.

It comes as the heartbreaking final messages and posts have been revealed from passengers who shared photos on the plane before the crash. Locals on a nearby island said they heard two explosions before discovering metal pieces, cables and fragments of a pair of jeans floating in the sea. 

The missing plane is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX jet involved in two earlier fatal crashes – including the Indonesian Lion Air crash in 2018 which killed 189.  Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said the doomed flight was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2.36pm.

But the aircraft disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude 8,839 meters.   Sriwijaya Air, which flies to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has said little about the plane, which was previously flown by US-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines.

The Indonesian carrier has not recorded a fatal crash since it started operations in 2003.The Southeast Asian nation’s fast-growing aviation sector has long been plagued by safety concerns, and its airlines were once banned from entering US and European airspace.

In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet crashed near Jakarta. That accident  and another in Ethiopia  saw Boeing hit with $2.5 billion in fines over claims it defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which was grounded worldwide following the accidents.

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

In 2014, an AirAsia plane headed from Surabaya to Singapore crashed with the loss of 162 lives.

A year later more than 140 people, including scores on the ground, were killed when a military plane crashed shortly after take-off in Medan on Sumatra island.