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Divers recover one of two black boxes from crashed Indonesia plane

Indonesian navy personnel handle a box containing the flight-data recorder from a plane that crashed in the Java Sea.
Indonesian Navy personnel handle a box containing the flight-data recorder from the Sriwijaya Air flight that crashed in the Java Sea.
(Dita Alangkara / Associated Press)

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

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

TV stations showed divers heading to a Jakarta port on an inflatable vessel with a large white container that had the device in it.

Indonesian Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said the plane’s other black box, the cockpit voice recorder, was likely to be found soon because its beacon was being emitted in the same area.

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The devices were buried in seabed mud under tons of sharp objects in the plane’s wreckage, navy Chief Adm. Yudo Margono said. He said at least 160 divers were deployed Tuesday in the search.

More than 3,600 rescue personnel, 13 helicopters, 54 large ships and 20 small boats have been searching the area just north of Jakarta where Flight 182 crashed and have found parts of the plane and human remains in the water at a depth of 75 feet.

Authorities say they have determined the location of the Boeing 737-500 and its black boxes after the plane crashed into the Java Sea with 62 on board.

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

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

“My husband is a loving, devout and super kind man,” she wrote on Instagram. “Heaven is your place, dear ... be peaceful there.”

Anguished family members have been providing samples for DNA tests, and police say results are expected in four to eight 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 of victims.

Boeing Co.’s 737 Max has returned to commercial service in the U.S., with the first flight since two deadly crashes prompted the grounding.

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will join in investigating the crash.

The NTSC chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, ruled out a possible midair breakup after seeing the condition of the wreckage found by searchers. He said the jet was intact until it struck the water, concentrating the debris field, rather than spreading it out over a large area as would be consistent with a midair event.

The disaster has reignited concerns about safety in Indonesia’s aviation industry, which grew fast after the economy was opened following the fall of the dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. The U.S. had banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the U.S. in 2007 but lifted the action in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union lifted a similar ban in 2018.

Sriwijaya Air has had only minor safety incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when a plane went off the runway while landing because of a hydraulic issue.


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