JAKARTA, Indonesia (NewsNation Now) — Authorities said they determined the location of the crash site and black boxes of a Boeing 737-500 on Sunday, a day after the aircraft crashed into the Java Sea with 62 people on board shortly after taking off from Indonesia’s capital.
The head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Bagus Puruhito, said officials believe they identified the location of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder — the so-called black boxes — because emergency signals transmitted by the devices were detected by a navy ship’s sonar system.
“Hopefully we can lift the black boxes in short time to determine the cause of the crash,” military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said.
Earlier Sunday, search and rescue operations resulted in parts of the plane being found in the sea at a depth of 75 feet, leading rescuers to continue searching the area.
The jet lost contact with air traffic controllers and crashed into sea minutes after taking off from Indonesia’s capital on a domestic flight on Saturday, and debris found by fishermen was being examined to see if it was from the missing plane, officials said.
Indonesian Transportation Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati said the Boeing 737-500 took off from Jakarta at about 1:56 p.m. and lost contact with the control tower at 2:36 p.m. Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off. The plane disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 29,000 feet, Irawati said.
Indonesian Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told a news conference that 62 people had been aboard, including 12 crew. Another official had said earlier there were 56 passengers and six crew.
Sumadi said a dozen vessels, including four warships, were deployed in a search-and-rescue operation centered between Lancang island and Laki island, part of the Thousand Islands chain just north of Jakarta.
A statement released by the airline said the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island.
Agus Haryono, a rescue agency official, told Reuters that a search and rescue team had found debris suspected to be from the plane in the waters north of Jakarta, but it had not been confirmed that it was from the flight.
Bambang Suryo Aji, the National Search and Rescue Agency’s deputy head of operations and preparedness, said rescuers collected plane debris and clothes that were found by the fishermen. They handed the items over to the National Transportation Safety Committee for further investigation to determine whether they were from the missing plane.
Solihin, 22, a fisherman from Lancang Island, said he and two other fishermen heard an explosion around 30 meter from them.
“We thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water after the explosion. It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. So it is difficult to see around clearly. But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat,” he said.
Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane was airworthy. He told reporters that the plane had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.
“Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy,” Jauwena told a news conference. He said the plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage.
A Boeing spokeswoman said, “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information.”
The Air Line Pilots Association, International expressed “sadness by the loss of Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182” in a statement on Saturday afternoon.
ALPA is saddened by the loss of Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182. Our deepest condolences are with the families and loved ones of the passengers and crewmembers who lost their lives in this tragic event. As the various parties responsible for the investigation begin their work, we caution against speculation about what may have caused the accident. ALPA stands ready, through the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, to assist the international aviation community in every way possible with the shared goal of advancing a safer air transportation system around the globe
A plane flying from Jakarta to Pontianak would spend most of the flight over the Java Sea. There was still no sign of the missing plane as night fell.
Experts said Sunday it was too early to determine the factors responsible for the crash of the nearly 27-year-old plane.
It was raining at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at the time of take-off for Pontianak, around 460 miles away.
Television footage showed relatives and friends of people aboard the plane weeping, praying and hugging each other as they waited at Jakarta’s airport and Pontianak’s airport.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.
In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.
Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.