Lion Air crash: Search for victims, second black box extended

A remotely operated underwater vehicle is prepared for a dive in search of the cockpit voice recorder that was on board the crashed Lion Air flight JT 610. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA • The Indonesian authorities have extended by three days, starting from today, the search for victims and a black box from the wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed last week, killing all 189 people on board.

"We decided to extend it three days," national search and rescue agency Basarnas' chief Muhammad Syaugi said yesterday at a news conference.

The decision was based on an evaluation and observations of the crash site, he told reporters, noting that many victims' remains had not been recovered.

As of yesterday, a total of 105 body bags, few containing intact remains, had been recovered and handed to police for forensic identification, yet only 14 victims had been identified.

"I'm sure the total will increase," Air Marshal Syaugi said.

The agency is prioritising recovering human remains and the cockpit voice recorder - the second black box - from the wrecked near-new Boeing 737 Max that smashed into the sea early last Monday, 13 minutes after it took off from Jakarta.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Committee said 69 hours of recorded data from 19 flights, including the fatal one, had been downloaded successfully from a partly damaged flight data recorder recovered last Thursday.

"Now we are choosing which parameters we need. From here we will analyse what happened to that flight," Mr Nurcahyo Utomo told reporters yesterday.

Analysis of the data and a recovered aircraft landing gear and engine will begin today and information will be passed to the police if needed, he said.

"Of course, this won't be completed in one or two days."

Meanwhile, divers searching for the cockpit voice recorder have been homing in on ping signals.

"Yesterday there was a fairly strong signal. Today (a search) dive was conducted - there was a signal but it was weak, quite possibly because of the mud," Mr Utomo said.

He noted that the flight data recorder had been found buried in half a metre of mud.

The second black box is thought to be around 50m from the main search area, where the water is only 30m deep, but ocean currents and mud on the sea bed that is more than 1m deep have complicated search efforts.

The pilot of the ill-fated Lion Air Flight JT610 had asked for, and received, permission to turn back to Jakarta, but what went wrong remains a mystery.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2018, with the headline Lion Air crash: Search for victims, second black box extended. Subscribe