Divers recover the first black box from crashed Indonesia plane


Indonesian naval divers searching the seabed on Tuesday recovered the flight data recorder from a Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea with 62 people on board.

The unit is expected to help investigators determine what caused the Boeing 737-500 plane to snort in the ocean in heavy rain shortly after taking off from Jakarta on Saturday.

TV stations showed divers on an inflatable ship with a large white container containing the device on its way to a Jakarta port.

Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said the plane’s other “black box”, the voice recorder in the cockpit, was likely to be found soon because its lighthouse was released in the same area.

The units were buried in mud on the seabed under lots of sharp objects in the wreckage of the aircraft, said Navy Chief Adm. Yudo Margono. He said at least 160 divers were deployed Tuesday in the search.

More than 3,600 rescue workers, 13 helicopters, 54 large ships and 20 small boats are searching the area just north of Jakarta, where planes 182 crashed and have found parts of the plane and human remains in the water at a depth of 23 meters (75 feet)).

To date, searchers have sent 74 body bags containing human remains to police identification experts who on Monday said they had identified their first victim, 29-year-old flight attendant Okky Bisma.

His wife, Aldha Refa, who is also the flight attendant for Sriwijaya Air, shared her grief in a series of posts on social media.

“My husband is a loving, devoted and super kind man,” she wrote on Instagram. “Heaven is your place, dear … rest in peace.”

Anguished family members have provided samples for DNA testing and police say the results are expected in 4-8 days.

National Police spokesman Rusdi Hartono said about 53 samples for DNA testing have been collected but more are still needed, especially from parents and children to the victims.

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said the US National Transportation Safety Board will participate in the investigation into the crash.

The NTSC chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, ruled out a possible split in the air after seeing the condition of the wreckage that the searchers found. He said the jet was intact until it hit the water and concentrated the debris field, rather than spreading it over a large area, which would be seen with an aviation.

The disaster has revived security concerns in Indonesia’s aviation industry, which grew rapidly after the economy opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. The United States had banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007 and repealed the measure in 2016, citing improvements in line with international aviation standards. The European Union lifted a similar ban in 2018.

In the past year, Indonesian aviation was significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused restrictions and a decline in demand among travelers.

Sriwijaya Air has only had minor safety incidents in the past, although a farmer was killed in 2008 when an aircraft went off the runway during landing due to a hydraulic issue.

In 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet powered by Lion Air crashed, killing 189 people. An automated flight control system played a role in that crash, but Sriwijaya Air-jet did not have that system on board.