Members of a search and rescue team and the Indonesian Navy's KRI Rigel 933 conduct operations near Lancang island, Jakarta. AFP
Gulf Today Report
Indonesian divers searched waters off Jakarta on Monday in a hunt for black boxes from the passenger jet with 62 people aboard that crashed at the weekend.
With little prospect now of finding survivors, authorities also said that there would be a focus on recovering the bodies of victims as investigators took up the grim task of identifying victims’ mangled remains.
A Sriwijaya Air jet that plunged into the sea two days ago with 62 people on board minutes after take off from Jakarta's main airport investigators have so far offered little to explain why the plane crashed about four minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, but said on Sunday they had pinpointed the location of the black boxes.
Finding the boxes — cockpit voice and flight data recorders — could offer crucial clues as to why the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged some 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) in less than a minute before slamming into the Java Sea.
A police hospital receiving the remains had taken 40 DNA samples from the relatives of victims and other medical records to help with identification, officials said.
"The quicker we can find victims, the better," search and rescue operation director Rasman MS told an earlier briefing, adding that the operation involved 2,600 personnel, 53 ships and aerial surveillance.
Some of the 2,600 personnel working in the recovery effort involving dozens of boats and helicopters are hauling body parts, twisted piece of wreckage and passengers’ clothing from shallow waters about 23 metres (75 feet) deep.
Underwater photos supplied by Indonesia’s navy showed a sea floor littered with wreckage.
Body bags filled with human remains were sprayed with disinfectant at Jakarta’s main port before being taken to a police hospital where investigators hope to identify victims by matching DNA from their remains to living relatives.
All 62 passengers and crew aboard the half-full flight were Indonesian. The count included 10 children.
“Today we’re expanding the search area... and collecting anything we can retrieve, debris or the victims,” Rasman MS, head of the search and rescue agency’s crash operations, told reporters on Monday.
“It’s going to be an around-the-clock operation — 24 hours. There will be no breaks. The sooner we can find victims, the better.”
The probe into the crash — the latest in a string of disasters for Indonesia’s aviation sector — is likely to take months.
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.
Stephen Wright, professor of aircraft systems at Finland’s Tampere University, said the aircraft’s relatively slow air speed was a red flag.
“Something quite dramatic has happened after takeoff,” he added.
Sriwijaya Air, which operates flights to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has said little about the 26-year-old plane, which was previously flown by US-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines.
The 4,132 search and rescue personnel are supported by 14 airplanes, 62 ships and 21 raft boats. They are using an underwater metal detector and remotely operated vehicle to find human remains, the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and more wreckage.
The Boeing 737-500 plane with 62 people on board plunged into the Java Sea on Saturday, four minutes after taking off from Jakarta's main airport.
More than 3,600 rescue personnel, 13 helicopters, 54 large ships and 20 small boats are searching the area just north of Jakarta where Flight 182 crashed and have found parts of the plane and human remains in the water at a depth of 23 metres.
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