Indonesia navy divers hunt for crashed plane’s black boxes

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JAKARTA, Jan 11 (AP): Indonesian navy divers scoured the floor of the Java Sea on Monday as they hunted for the black boxes of a Sriwijaya Air jet that nosedived into the waters at high velocity with 62 people aboard.

The Boeing 737-500 jet disappeared minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, during heavy rain on Saturday, and the search so far has yielded plane parts and human remains but no sign of survivors.

Authorities have said signals from the boxes containing the cockpit voice and flight data recorders were detected between Lancang and Laki islands in the Thousand Island chain just north of Jakarta’s coast. Officials said they have marked a location where the sounds were being emitted from the black boxes, which detached from the tail of the aircraft when it plummeted into the sea.

The cockpit voice recorder holds conversations between pilots, and the data recorder tracks electronic information such as airspeed, altitude and vertical acceleration. When found, they will be transported to port and handed to the National Transportation Safety Committee overseeing the crash investigation.

More than a dozen helicopters, 53 navy ships and 20 boats, and 2,600 rescue personnel have been searching since Sunday and have found parts of the plane in the water at a depth of 23 meters (75 feet), leading rescuers to continue searching the area.

The National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bagus Puruhito said divers using high-tech “ping locator” equipment were looking for an identified target beneath 20 meters (65 feet) of seabed mud.

Television footage showed landing gear, wheels and a jet engine among the parts found, while other rescuers brought a dozen body bags containing human remains to a police hospital in eastern Jakarta for the identification process.

The transport committees chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said the black boxes could provide valuable information to investigators. Once the device is found and taken to the investigators’ facility, it will take three to five days to dry and clean the device and to download its data, Tjahjono said.

He said it need more time to analyse it, “depending on the complexity of the problem.”

Tjahjono ruled out a possible midair breakup after seeing the condition of the wreckage found by searchers.

He said the jet was intact when it plunged and it broke into pieces upon the impact with the water. The debris was concentrated in one area, while a midair explosion would have caused debris to be spread over a large area, he said.

“It was broke apart naturally upon impact with water… there is no indication of unnatural destruction or explosion so far,” Tjahjono told The Associated Press. “However, this still has to be confirmed by reading the black boxes.”

The committees investigator Nurcahyo Utomo, said they have collected recordings and transcripts of the conversation between the pilot and air traffic controllers as part of their investigation into the cause of the crash.

Utomo said his team is still examining radar data on the planes movements and interviewed the air traffic officers who were in charge of controlling the crashed flight. More interviews of witnesses, including with the airlines technicians, fishermen and experts, will be done in the near future.

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