World

Navy recovers wreckage from Sriwijaya Air plane crash site

January 10, 2021

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Human remains and plane wreckage have been pulled from the crash site of an Indonesian passenger jet that plunged into the ocean minutes after takeoff on Saturday, with 62 people on board.

A signal from the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 passenger plane that crashed into the sea off the Indonesian capital Jakarta was detected early Sunday, an army official said.

After a navy ship detected a signal from the aircraft, "a diving team went down and found pieces of the aircraft such as debris and pieces with identification numbers on them," said Hadi Tjahjanto, the commander of the Indonesian armed forces.

Authorities have not said if the signal came from the aircraft's black box. The search and rescue operation for the missing jet in the Java Sea was suspended overnight and resumed on Sunday morning.

The Sriwijaya Air flight 182 — a Boeing 737-500 — was heading from Jakarta to the city of Pontianak, on the Indonesian island of Borneo, when it lost contact, 11 nautical miles north of Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Four minutes into the flight, and amid heavy rains, the plane dropped 10,000 feet in less than a minute before disappearing from the radar, according to the global flight tracking service Flightradar24.

Indonesian Navy divers found wreckage from flight SJY 182 after locating a signal from the aircraft's fuselage. Tjahjanto, said that he is confident that the Navy Rigel Warship has located the plane's fuselage.

As well as debris from the plane, Indonesian police said they have received two body bags, one containing personal effects belonging to victims, and another containing human remains, Jakarta Police spokesperson Yusri Yunus told CNN.

A command post set up at the Kramat Jati Police Hospital in Jakarta to identify the crash victims and search for family members was working to identify the remains, he said.

The focus of the search is between the islands of Laki and Lancang, known as the Thousand Islands chain, about 20 miles northwest of Jakarta. Some 28 ships, five helicopters and two airplanes have been deployed in a joint effort between the Indonesian Navy, Police, Coast Guard and Transportation Ministry.

Navy official Abdul Rasyid said the Indonesian Navy has dispatched 10 ships to the surrounding waters off Laki Island and the Armed Forces chief will visit the search area Sunday morning.

On Saturday, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said it had found several pieces of debris believed to be from the missing plane but bad weather and poor visibility had hampered the search overnight.

The crash site was confirmed Sunday morning by the Indonesian National Armed Forces and Navy divers were deployed to search for the wreckage.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2.36 pm local time (8.36 am CET).

The Boeing 737-500 disappeared from radars four minutes later after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 8,839 meters, he said.

Flight tracker website FlightRadar24 showed SJ182 losing more than 10,000 feet of altitude in under a minute.

The airline said in a statement that the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island.

The plane was carrying 50 passengers and 12 crew members, all Indonesian nationals, including six extra crew for another trip.

Bambang Suryo Aji, the National Search and Rescue Agency’s deputy head of operations and preparedness, said rescuers collected plane debris and clothes that were found by fishermen.

They handed the items over to the National Transportation Safety Committee for further investigation to determine whether they were from the missing plane.

A commander of one of the search-and-rescue ships who goes by a single name, Eko, said that fishermen found cables and pieces of metal in the water.

"The fishermen told us that they found them shortly after they heard an explosion like the sound of thunder," Eko was quoted by TVOne as saying, adding that aviation fuel was found in the location where the fishermen found the debris.

Aji said no radio beacon signal had been detected from the 26-year-old plane. He said his agency was investigating why the plane's emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, was not transmitting a signal that could confirm whether it had crashed.

"The satellite system owned by neighboring Australia also did not pick up on the ELT signal from the missing plane," Aji said.

Solihin, 22, a fisherman from Lancang Island, said he and two other fishermen heard an explosion around 30 meters from them.

"We thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water after the explosion. It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad.

“So it is difficult to see around clearly. But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat," he said.

Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane was airworthy. He told reporters that the plane had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.

"Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy," Jauwena told a news conference. He said the plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage.

Television footage showed relatives and friends of people aboard the plane weeping, praying and hugging each other as they waited at airports in Jakarta and Pontianak.

Chicago-based Boeing said on its Twitter feed that it was aware of the incident. It said it was closely monitoring the situation and “working to gather more information.”

The twin-engine, single aisle Boeing 737 is one of the world’s most popular planes for short and medium-haul flights. The 737-500 is a shorter version of the widely used 737 model. Airlines began using this type of plane in the 1990s, with production ending two decades ago.

Discount carrier Sriwijaya began operations in 2003 and flies to more than 50 destinations in Indonesia and a handful of nearby countries. Its fleet includes a variety of 737 variants as well as the regional ATR 72 twin-engine turboprop plane.

The airline has had a solid safety record until now, with no onboard casualties in four incidents recorded on the Aviation Safety Network database, though a farmer was killed when a Boeing 737-200 left the runway in 2008 following a hydraulic problem. — Agencies


January 10, 2021
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