Divers yesterday scoured the seabed near the Indonesia capital for the cockpit recordings of a crashed passenger plane, after investigators said it would be days before they could read the flight data recorder that had already been salvaged.
The two “black boxes” could supply critical clues as to why the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged about 3,000m in less than one minute before slamming into the Java Sea soon after takeoff on Saturday, taking with it 62 people.
Divers just off the coast of Jakarta had hauled the data recorder to the surface on Tuesday, with the hunt now focused on finding a voice recorder on the wreckage-littered seabed.
The discovery came as a team from the US National Transportation Safety Board prepared to join the investigation, along with staff from Boeing, the US Federal Aviation Administration and jet engine producer GE Aviation.
“The search continues today and we’re hoping for a good result,” Rasman MS, the search-and-rescue agency’s operations director, told reporters.
Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee Chairman Soerjanto Tjahjono said a day earlier that investigators hoped to download data from the retrieved black box in a matter of days, so “we can reveal the mystery behind this accident.”
Black box data includes the speed, altitude and direction of the plane, as well as flight crew conversations, and helps explain nearly 90 percent of all crashes, aviation experts said.
Authorities have been unable to explain why the 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after setting off from Jakarta, bound for Pontianak City on Borneo Island, a 90-minute flight away.
More than 3,000 people are taking part in the recovery effort, assisted by dozens of boats and helicopters flying over small islands off Jakarta’s coast.
A remotely operated vehicle has been deployed to assist the divers, but strong currents and monsoon rains can make the task harder.
“It’s not easy to find victims and parts of the fuselage, because the debris and human remains are usually in small pieces so they can easily drift away,” said Agus Haryono of the search-and-rescue agency’s crash team.
The grisly task of hunting for mangled body parts can also take a psychological toll.
Newer divers “feel uncomfortable or even get scared, especially when they’re retrieving remains at night,” Haryono said. “But, as time goes by, they get stronger mentally to face these situations.”
Three more victims have been identified by matching fingerprints on file to body parts retrieved from the murky depths, authorities said, including a 50-year-old female passenger and a 38-year-old off-duty pilot.
There were 10 children among the passengers on the half-full plane, which had experienced pilots at the controls.
Scores of body bags filled with human remains were being taken to a police morgue, where forensic investigators hoped to identify victims by matching fingerprints or DNA with relatives.
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