Body parts, twisted wrecks and clothes were picked up from water outside the Indonesian capital on Sunday after a passenger property with 62 people on board crashed shortly after take-off a day earlier.
Authorities have not yet said why the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 took a steep dive about four minutes after leaving Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Saturday afternoon.
But on Sunday, they said they had pointed to the location of its black boxes – cockpit voice and flight data recorders – which may be the key to explaining why the plane crashed into the Java Sea off the coast of the sprawling city.
“Divers will start looking for them now and hopefully it will not be long before we get them,” said the head of Indonesia’s Transport Safety Agency, Soerjanto Tjahjono.
The search and rescue agency said it had collected body bags filled with human remains, as well as debris from the wreck, in about 23 meters deep water.
Passengers Ihsan Adhlan Hakim and his new bride Putri were on their way to Pontianak, the city on Indonesia’s part of Borneo Island that had been flight SJ182’s destination, about 90 minutes away.
“He called me to say that the flight was delayed due to bad weather,” said Hakim’s brother Arwin from Pontianak, where a wedding party had been planned.
“That was the last time I had contact with him.”
Beben Sofian, 59, and her husband Dan Razanah, 58, were also on the convicted flight.
“They took a selfie and sent it to their children before they started,” the couple’s nephew, Hendra, told AFP.
DNA from relatives will be compared with detected residues for identification.
All 62 passengers and crew on board the half-full flight were Indonesian. The bill included 10 children.
Distraught relatives waited nervously for news at Pontianak airport.
“I have four family members on the flight – my wife and three children,” said a sobbing Yaman Zai.
“(My wife) sent me a picture of the baby … How could my heart not be torn to pieces?”
Data from FlightRadar24 indicated that the airliner reached an altitude of almost 11,000 feet (3,350 meters) before suddenly dropping to 250 feet. It then lost contact with air traffic control.
The Minister of Transport said on Saturday that the beam seemed to deviate from its intended course just before it disappeared from the radar.
“The last moment of the plane is … very worrying because the speed it flew at that altitude was much lower than expected,” said Stephen Wright, professor of aircraft systems at the University of Finland in Tampere.
“In the final seconds, the plane sank rapidly from 10,000 feet to sea in 20 seconds, which means a catastrophic event or something deliberate.”
But he added that the crash “can only be fully explained when the black boxes and the wreck can be properly analyzed”.
Sriwijaya Air, which operates flights to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has so far said little about the 26-year-old plane, which was previously flown by US-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines.
The Indonesian carrier has not registered a fatal crash since it started operations in 2003, but this accident is the latest in a series of disasters for the country’s aviation sector.
Southeast Asia’s national aviation sector has long been plagued by security concerns, and its airlines have once been banned from entering the United States and European airspace.
In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet crashed near Jakarta.
That accident – and another in Ethiopia – saw Boeing fined $ 2.5 billion for allegations that he was cheating regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which was grounded worldwide after the crash.
The 737 that went down on Saturday was not a MAX variant.
“Our thoughts are with the crew, the passengers and their families,” Boeing said in a statement.
In 2014, an AirAsia plane from Surabaya to Singapore crashed with the loss of 162 lives.
A final report said that important factors included a chronically faulty component of a rudder control system, poor maintenance and the pilots’ inadequate response.
One year later, more than 140 people were killed, including points on the ground, when a military plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Medan on the island of Sumatra.