Hunt on for doomed plane’s cockpit recorders


Searching on: Navy divers at work at the crash site. — Reuters

Searching on: Navy divers at work at the crash site. — Reuters

JAVA SEA: Indonesian divers resumed a search for an airliner that crashed with 189 people on board, as “pinger locators” tried to zero in on its cockpit recorders and uncover why an almost-new plane went down in the sea minutes after take-off.

Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, has a patchy safety record.

With the now almost certain prospect of all on board having died, the crash is set to rank as its second-worst air disaster.

Ground staff lost contact with flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air 13 minutes after the aircraft took off early on Monday from the airport in Jakarta, the capital, on its way to the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang.

“Hopefully this morning we can find the wreckage or fuselage,” Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of a national transport safety panel, told Reuters, adding that underwater “pinger locators”, including equipment from Singapore, were being deployed to help find the aircraft’s black boxes.

The priority is finding the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder to help determine the cause of the disaster, safety experts said.

Although divers stopped searching overnight, sonar vessels and an underwater drone kept up the hunt for the wreckage, where many victims were feared trapped, officials said.

Only debris and body parts have been found off the shore of Karawang, east of Jakarta.

“The visibility is not good as it’s very overcast,” a special forces officer said, noting the dive team had started just after dawn and been down to a depth of 35m.

Underwater footage released by the national search and rescue agency showed relatively poor visibility. In all, 35 vessels are helping to search.

Yusuf Latif, the spokesman of the search and rescue agency, had said finding survivors “would be a miracle”, judging by the condition of the recovered debris and body parts.

Lion Air said human remains were collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the site, in waters about 30m to 35m deep roughly 15km off the coast.

The remains of a baby were among those found, according to national deputy police chief Ari Dono Sukmanto.

Another 14 bags filled with debris have also been collected, including shoes, items of clothing and a wallet.

“Everything on the surface of the water has been collected,” Syaugi said. —Reuters/AFP