JAKARTA, Indonesia. — Rescuers searching for the wreckage of an Indonesian passenger jet that crashed into the ocean with 62 people on board on Saturday say they have located the plane’s black box flight recorder and obtained communications data.
The head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said late on Sunday evening that the two black boxes from Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 are believed have been detected within 150 to 200 meters (492 to 656 feet) of the crash site — and that search and rescue operations are continuing around the clock.
Authorities said Monday that their efforts to recover bodies, the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) were hampered by debris in the water.
“We have two spots that highly suspected as a location of two black boxes. But unfortunately there is a lot of debris around that spots,” Indonesia Navy Commander Admiral Yudo Margono said Monday.
Margono said a diving team is working to clear out debris, and hope to recover the devices “soon.”
Suryanto Cahyono, head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Commission, said Sunday that authorities had picked up intermittent pings being transmitted from the CVR and FDR to a receiver that can “detect and locate the black boxes.”
Cahyono added that the special device will yield a more accurate result in comparison to ping locators or sonar gear that are installed on ships, and said that it is now in the hands of divers from the Indonesian Navy.
The Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, said that they are “receiving two signals from the black box and are continuing to monitor it.” He added that he hoped to retrieve it soon from the seabed, 23 meters (approximately 75 feet) below the surface.
The Sriwijaya Air plane — a Boeing 737-500 — was heading from Jakarta to the city of Pontianak, on the Indonesian side of Borneo, when it lost contact at 2:40 p.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET), 11 nautical miles north of Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
Four minutes into the flight, and amid heavy rains, the plane dropped 10,000 feet in less than a minute before disappearing from the radar, according to the global flight tracking service Flightradar24.
Investigators believe that the plane was fully intact when it crashed into the sea owing to the fact that debris from the wreckage has so far been located only in a single, concentrated area, Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee Chief Suryanto Cahyono said.
“The plane speed when it hits the water is very high, but of course, we have to wait for the investigation to say more about this,” Suryanto said.
Commander Fajar Rohadi, Spokesperson of First Fleet of Indonesian Navy, told CNN on Sunday that the navy had yet to retrieve the large structure of the fuselage, but had retrieved human body parts and pieces of the plane.
Dozens of bags, containing remains of victims, pieces of clothing and aircraft debris located by Basarnas, have so far been handed over to the Jakarta-based disaster victim investigation unit for identification, according to officials.
Police have collected 40 DNA samples from relatives of those on board in order to help identify the remains.
Aviation disaster investigators have obtained communications data from air traffic control and the pilot, according to Captain Ray Nurcahyo, an NTSC investigator.
Three NTSC investigators are at the crash site with search and rescue teams. So far, they have recovered some components and instruments from the flight, including the Ground Proximity Warning System, radio altimeter, emergency landing support and the tail of the plane.
National Transportation Safety Board USA has assigned Michael Hauff, their accredited aircraft crash expert, to fly to Indonesia to investigate.
The focus of the search is between the islands of Laki and Lancang, known as the Thousand Islands chain, about 20 miles northwest of Jakarta. Some 28 ships, five helicopters and two airplanes have been deployed in a joint effort between the Indonesian Navy, Police, Coast Guard and Transportation Ministry.
Following the crash, Indonesia’s transportation ministry plans on conducting checks on maintenance issues with airlines, ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati told CNN Monday.
She added that it is a precaution and a routine procedure following plane crashes. The ministry is particularly interested in speaking to other operators of Boeing 737 in the 300, 400, and 500 models.