Hopes for survivors fades as passenger plane wreckage found off Indonesian coast

The wreck of a passenger plane that disappeared off the coast of Indonesia shortly after take-off was discovered by divers, the country’s Air Chief said on Sunday as hopes of finding survivors faded.

Parts of the Boeing 737-500 were found at a depth of about 75 feet in the Java Sea, Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said in a statement the day after the disappearance of Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182 with 62 people on board, all of them Indonesian nationals.

Three babies and seven other children were among the 50 passengers, and six members of the work crew were on board, along with six other crew members, for another flight.

Tjahjanto said body parts were found by divers, along with clothing and scraps of metal and broken fuselage pieces with aircraft registration parts.

“We are sure that this is where the plane crashed,” he said.

Indonesian police officers and soldiers carry debris from Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182, which crashed into the sea on Saturday.WILLY KURNIAWAN / Reuters

When the families gathered to await more information and news about their loved ones, the authorities set up two crisis centers – one at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, from which the plane departed, and one in a nearby port.

On social media, people shared photos and videos of family members who were passengers on the flight. A video shows a woman with her children waving goodbye as she walks through the airport.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed his “deep condolences for this tragedy” and said on Sunday that his country was “doing our best to save the victims”.

“We pray together so that the victims can be found,” he said, adding that the Indonesian National Road Safety Committee would conduct an investigation.

Officials also believe the location of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder – the so-called black box – has been discovered, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency head Bagus Puruhito told reporters on Sunday.

Distress signals sent by the devices were detected by a naval ship’s sonar system, he said.

The flight to Supadio International Airport in the city of Pontianak was delayed by an hour before taking off at around 2:40 p.m. local time (2:40 p.m. CET) on Saturday, Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said on Saturday.

It disappeared from radar just four minutes after taking off after losing more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than a minute.

Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, CEO of Sriwijaya Air, told a press conference on Saturday that the aircraft, which is 26 years old and previously operated by airlines in the United States, was “airworthy”.

The plane was delayed because of bad weather, not damage.

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Sriwijaya Air was founded in 2003 and is one of Indonesia’s discount airlines, serving dozens of domestic and international destinations.

Boeing said in a statement on Saturday that it was in contact with the airline.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation with more than 260 million inhabitants, has been hit by traffic accidents due to aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.

Between 2007 and 2016, the US Federal Aviation Administration lowered its safety rating for Indonesia to Category 2, which means that the regulatory system was inadequate. Indonesian officials say they worked hard to bring security up to international standards.

This is the second plane crash off the coast of Indonesia in just over two years. A Boeing 737 Max of the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed off Jakarta in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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