Grieving friends and relatives were expected at a Jakarta cemetery on December 14 for the funeral of a flight attendant on the crashed Indonesian passenger jet, as divers restarted their hunt for its second black box.
Okky Bisma, 29, was the first confirmed victim of Saturday’s disaster after fingerprints from his retrieved hand were matched to those on a government identity database.
There were 62 crew and passengers, including 10 children, on the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500, which plunged about 3,000m in less than a minute before slamming into the Java Sea just after take-off from Jakarta.
At least five other victims have since been identified, as forensic examiners sort through mangled human remains retrieved from the wreckage-littered seabed in the hope of matching DNA with relatives.
Funeral traditions in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, call for a quick burial of the dead.
But the identification process could take weeks or more, prolonging the agony for some distraught families.
Nearly 270 divers were on hand on December 14 as authorities restarted the underwater hunt, which was called off a day earlier due to bad weather and rough seas.
“The main focus [today] will be the diving,” said Rasman MS, the search-and-rescue agency’s operations director.
“We’re not just looking for one thing – victims, the cockpit voice recorder and debris are all priorities.”
Investigators have said they are working to read critical details on a flight data device that had already been salvaged, with the focus now on finding the plane’s cockpit voice recorder.
Black box data includes the speed, altitude and direction of the plane as well as flight crew conversations, and helps explain nearly 90 per cent of all crashes, according to aviation experts.
So far authorities have been unable to explain why the 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after take-off, bound for Pontianak city on Borneo island, a 90-minute flight away.
It had experienced pilots at the controls, and preliminary evidence showed that the crew did not declare an emergency or report technical problems as it sharply deviated from its planned course just before the crash, authorities said.
Bad weather, pilot error, poor maintenance and mechanical failure were among possible factors, aviation analysts said.
As the global pandemic hammered demand for air travel, the jet – previously flown by US-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines – had been parked in a hangar for about nine months before it was put back into service in December after being declared airworthy, according to the transport ministry.
Since then, it had flown more than 130 times before the accident, flight tracking data showed.
The crash probe was likely to take months, but a preliminary report was expected in 30 days.