Rescuers on Sunday said that they have detected a signal from the Boeing passenger plane that crashed near Indonesia’s capital a day earlier, reported AFP.
An Indonesian Sriwijaya Air plane with 62 people on board had crashed into the sea minutes after taking off from Jakarta on Saturday, Transport Minister Budi Karya had confirmed to Reuters. The Boeing 737-500 crashed near Laki Island, about 12 km from the airport. The plane, which had departed for Pontianak in West Kalimantan, disappeared from the radar after taking off just after 2.30 pm.
The transport ministry said, citing the country’s military chief Hadi Tjahjanto, that a military vessel “found the signal from (Sriwijaya Air) SJ182” and divers had recovered parts of the plane from around 23 metres below the water’s surface.
Earlier in the day, the rescuers had pulled out body parts and debris from the wreckage of the plane. “As of this [Sunday] morning, we’ve received two [body] bags, one with passenger belongings and the other with body parts,” Jakarta Police spokesperson Yusri Yunus told a local news channel.
Officials said they were closing in on the wreckage of the flight after sonar equipment detected a signal from the aircraft, reported AP. “These pieces were found by the SAR [Search and Rescue] team between Lancang Island and Laki Island,” National Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito said.
Divers have marked at least three sites at the suspected crash site with orange balloons. “From our observation, it is strongly believed the coordinates match the ones from the plane’s last signal contact,” said Hadi Tjahjanto, head of Indonesia’s military.
Hundreds of personnel, including those from the police, search and rescue, the Navy, with 10 warships, were taking part in the search effort.
The country’s transport safety committee said that all those on board were Indonesian. Sriwijaya Air’s Chief Executive Officer Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said that the plane had been in good condition before the flight.
The incident came just after aircraft maker Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion (over Rs 18,350 crore) in fines and compensation after reaching a settlement with the United States Department of Justice for two plane crashes that killed 346 people and led to the grounding of its 737 MAX jetliner model.
In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet crashed into the sea about 12 minutes after taking off from Jakarta on a routine one-hour flight.
The nearly 27-year-old Boeing 737-500, which crashed on Saturday, was older than Boeing’s problem-plagued 737 MAX model. The older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.
“We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation,” a Boeing spokesperson said. “We are working to gather more information”.
Tracking service Flightradar24 tweeted that Flight SJ182 “lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta”. The aircraft first flew in May 1994 and is 26 years old, it added.
A transport ministry spokesperson said that air traffic control at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport had asked the pilot why the plane was heading northwest instead of going on its expected flight path seconds before it had disappeared. No immediate reason could be ascertained behind the sudden descent. Safety experts believe that most air accidents happen due to a mixture of factors that can take months to establish.
The Jakarta-based Sriwijaya Air group flies largely within Indonesia and was founded in 2003. The airline has a solid safety record till now, with no onboard casualties in four incidents recorded on the Aviation Safety Network database. Indonesia’s air safety record is, however, patchy.
In 2007, the European Union had banned all Indonesian airlines following a series of crashes and reports of deteriorating oversight and maintenance. The restrictions were lifted in 2018. Further, the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration had between 2007 and 2016 lowered its Indonesia safety evaluation to Category 2, meaning that the regulatory system was inadequate.
Indonesian officials say they have worked hard to bring safety up to international standards.