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Teams close in on Sriwijaya Air 737’s black box as first body recovered

written by Adam Thorn | January 12, 2021

Indonesian search teams are now said to be close to recovering the black box from the Sriwijaya Air 737 that plunged more than 10,000 feet into the Java Sea on Saturday.

It comes as the first body was recovered from the wreckage and later identified as 29-year-old flight attendant Okky Bisma.

The developments come after the 26-year-old Sriwijaya Air 737-524 plunged more than 10,000 feet into the Java Sea on Saturday, with 62 thought to be onboard.

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On Tuesday, though, authorities said they are now using ping-locator equipment to look for the black box 20 metres beneath the seabed mud between Lancang and Laki islands, north of Jakarta.

The box is likely to contain cockpit voice and flight data recordings that could shine a light on why the aircraft crashed, which so far remains a mystery.

Soerjanto Tjahjono, chairman of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), said the 737 may have been intact before it hit the sea given the debris remained concentrated underwater.

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

Searchers have already sent 17 body bags containing human remains to police identification experts.

“The quicker we can find victims, the better,” said search and rescue operation director Rasman MS.

So far, more than a dozen helicopters, 20 boats, 53 navy ships and 2,600 people have been searching.

Earlier this week, World of Aviation reported an eyewitness account from one local fisherman, Solihin, who told the BBC, “The plane fell like lightning into the sea and exploded in the water. It was pretty close to us, the shards of a kind of plywood almost hit my ship.”

Flightradar24 released data shortly after the incident revealing that the 26-year-old Sriwijaya Air 737-524, PK-CLC msn 27323, crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on 9 January 2021. It departed at 07:36 UTC (14:36 local time) and the last ADS-B signal was received by Flightradar24 just four minutes later at 07:40 UTC.

Significantly, it was recorded climbing to a maximum altitude of 10,900 feet at 07:40:06, but then began a sharp decline that saw it plunge to just 250 feet at 07:40:27.

Sriwijaya Air’s chief executive, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, said the near 27-year-old plane had been in good condition before the flight, while a Boeing spokesman said, “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information.”

Sriwijaya Air took delivery of PK-CLC in 2012, but it was originally delivered to Continental Airlines in 1994. The aircraft is operated by two CFM56-3C1 engines.

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