Seats, wheels and other parts of a crashed Indonesian Lion Air jet were hauled from the depths Friday, as authorities analysed black box data that may explain why the new plane plummeted into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.
Search teams have been scouring the seabed for the fuselage of the Boeing-737 MAX 8, which plunged into the waters off Indonesia’s northern coast shortly after takeoff Monday despite only having been in service a few months.
“There is a lot of little debris, plane wheels, and seats — all totally destroyed and in pieces,” said Isswarto, commander of the Indonesian navy’s search-and-rescue division.
Divers were searching an area about 25-35 metres deep, but have been finding fewer body parts than earlier in the week, he added.
“They’re scattered everywhere and some may have been washed away by the current.”
Dozens of body bags containing remains have been recovered from the crash site.
Television images showed divers tying ropes to twisted plane parts scattered along the seafloor, as a pair of wheels from the jet were hauled aboard a navy ship.
Search teams have also determined the location of part of the plane’s engine, authorities said.
On Thursday, one of the plane’s black boxes was recovered, along with parts of its landing gear.
The black box could offer investigators their best chance of discovering why such a new jet crashed. The devices help explain nearly 90 percent of all crashes, according to aviation experts.
The devices record information about the speed, altitude and direction of the plane as well as flight crew conversations.
The single-aisle Boeing plane, en route from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang city, is one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger jets.
Boeing and US National Transportation Safety Board officials have joined the Indonesian team in sifting through twisted metal plane parts and piles of passengers’ torn clothing, shoes, wallets and phones.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo returned Friday to the port where piles of recovered items are being sorted, while the search and rescue agency said the recovery effort would continue at least through Sunday.
“After that, we’ll evaluate the situation,” agency head Muhammad Syaugi told reporters in Jakarta.
Passengers’ remains are being sent to hospital for DNA identification, with the first funeral for one of the passengers held on Thursday.
Many other victims have yet to be found although there are hopes more can be recovered from the bulk of the wreckage, including those who may still be strapped to their seats.
Lion Air’s admission that the jet had a technical issue on a previous flight — as well its abrupt fatal dive — have raised questions about whether it had mechanical faults such as a speed-and-altitude system malfunction.
Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said it was interviewing people who flew on the plane the day before the fatal crash.
Some passengers who said they were on that Bali-Jakarta flight have reported a frightening, erratic trip, an assertion that appears to be backed up by flight tracking data.
The accident has also resurrected concerns about Indonesia’s poor air safety record which until recently saw its carriers facing years-long bans from entering European Union and US airspace.
Indonesia has had nearly 40 fatal aviation accidents in the past 15 years, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
Lion Air, Indonesia’s biggest budget carrier, has been involved in a number of incidents including a fatal 2004 crash.
In 2014, an AirAsia crash in the Java Sea during stormy weather killed 162 people.
The worst disaster in Indonesia’s aviation history left 234 dead in 1997 when an Airbus A-300B4 operated by national carrier Garuda Indonesia crashed in a smog-shrouded ravine in North Sumatra, just short of the airport.