Divers recovered the crashed Lion Air jet’s flight data recorder from the seafloor on Thursday, a crucial development in the investigation into what caused the 2-month-old plane to plunge into Indonesian seas earlier this week, killing 189 people. Relatives, meanwhile, buried the first victim to be identified and prayed at her flower-covered grave.
TV showed images of two divers after they surfaced, swimming to an inflatable vessel and placing the bright orange device into a large container that was transferred to a search-and-rescue ship.
“I was desperate because the current below was strong but I am confident of the tools given to me,” said navy 1st Sgt. Hendra, who uses a single name. After narrowing the possible location, “I started digging and cleaning the debris until I finally found an orange object,” he told TV, standing on the deck of a ship next to his diving mate.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed early Monday just minutes after takeoff from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia in more than two decades and renewed concerns about safety in its fast-growing aviation industry, which was recently removed from European Union and U.S. blacklists.
Navy Col. Monang Sitompul told local TV an object believed to be the aircraft’s fuselage was also seen on the seafloor.
The device recovered by divers is the flight data recorder and the search for the cockpit voice recorder continues, said Bambang Irawan, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Commission.
“We will process the data contained in this FDR as part of the investigation process to find out the cause of the crash,” he said. “We cannot say how long it takes to process data in a black box, but of course we will try as soon as possible.”
The flight data recorder was recovered from a depth of 98 feet, about 1,640 feet northwest from where the plane lost contact, said search-and-rescue agency head Muhammad Syaugi.
“The currents below the sea are still strong, which make it difficult for divers, but they persistently face it,” he said.