UPDATE: Indonesian Sriwijaya Air B737 black boxes, human remains found

Sriwijaya BOEING-737-500
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Indonesian search and rescue teams delivered 16 body bags from a Sriwijaya Air B737-500 that crashed Saturday for further examination at a hospital in Jakarta, a police spokesman says, as the Indonesian Navy confirmed the aircraft’s flight recorders had been detected. The Sriwijaya Air flight was carrying more than 62 passengers and crew crashed in the Java Sea on Saturday, minutes after taking off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK).

Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry said that the last contact with Sriwijaya Air Flight 182, was at 2:40 p.m. local time. The aircraft was bound for the Indonesian city of Pontianak on the island of Borneo.

The accident occurred only four minutes after take-off during a heavy monsoon season rain, with the 26-year-old aircraft losing more than 10,000 feet in altitude in less than 60 seconds, according to Flightradar24.

Sriwijaya CGK
Air traffic control lost contact with Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 at 2:40 p.m. local time, just four minutes after take-off.

Fishermen and the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency say they have found debris, including an emergency evacuation slide, in waters just northwest of Jakarta believed to be part of the plane’s wreckage.

The Indonesian Navy has deployed five warships and divers in the search, but darkness and inclement weather have impeded the search.

“Tomorrow we are going to survey the location,” Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, said on Saturday evening, dimming hopes that survivors would be found.

Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets prior to the coronavirus pandemic, also has one of the worst safety records. The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands has suffered 104 accidents and 2,353 related fatalities, data from Aviation Safety Network shows. For years, top Indonesian carriers were banned from flying to the US and Europe by those countries’ regulators. Serious efforts were made to improve the safety procedures and culture which ultimately saw the bans lifted.

In 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the Java Sea with 189 people aboard after the B737 Max jetliner’s anti-stall system malfunctioned. This was then followed by another B737 Max crashed in Ethiopia in March 2019 grounding the aircraft type across the world. The B757 Max has only just returned to the air after software fixes and extensive testing.

Prior to the Lion Air crash, Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore crashed in the Java Sea on 28 December 2014 killing all 162 people on board.

Established in 2003, Sriwijaya Air flies 53 routes,  most of them domestic but some international including to Penang, Malaysia and Dili, Timor Leste . While there have been four other incidents involving its aircraft, the last in May 2017, when a B737-33A overshot a runway, this is its first fatal accident.

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