JAKARTA: Indonesia’s top military official said on Sunday (Jan 10) that search and rescue personnel have detected emergency signals from the black boxes of the Sriwijaya Air jet that went missing on the day before.
“We are confident that they will be retrieved soon,” Indonesian military chief General Hadi Tjahjanto told a press conference at the Jakarta International Container Terminal, where rescue efforts are being coordinated.
Tjahjanto did not specify the exact timeframe.
He added that the aircraft’s “precise location” has also been determined – at a depth of 23m – not far from where it disappeared from radar screens.
“At this very moment all military personnel (involved) are approaching the location,” he said.
In a statement later in the evening, Mr Rasman MS, the search coordinator of Basarnas, the national search and rescue agency said: “There is a possibility that we will retrieve the black boxes tonight.”
He warned that the success of the retrieval will hinge upon the weather conditions at sea, saying that while it will be “challenging to do it at night”, the agency already has ships at the site.
“We will retrieve them as quickly as possible because of how vital they are to the investigation.”
READ: ‘Hoping for a miracle’: Anxious wait for friends and families after Sriwijaya Air plane goes missing in Indonesia
Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said it has retrieved radar data, and the recordings and transcripts between the pilot of SJ 182 and the air traffic controller.
“We have also interviewed the air traffic controller in charge of managing the plane’s flight path,” said Mr Nurchayo Utomo, the aviation sub committee head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT).
Mr Utomo added that several debris retrieved from the sea have been identified as plane instruments, including the Ground Proximity Warning System and part of a plane’s emergency door.
The KNKT has also received offers from its counterpart in Singapore, the Transportation Safety Investigation Bureau, to assist in finding the black boxes and have coordinated with the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States to help with the investigation.
“The KNKT is still asking permission from the government to bring these international investigators here, since there is a ban on foreigners coming to Indonesia until Jan 14,” said Mr Utomo.
The aircraft, bound for Pontianak in West Kalimantan, went missing in the Java Sea, just minutes after taking off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 2.36pm local time (3.36pm Singapore time) on Saturday.
There were 62 people on board, including 12 crew members and 10 children. The flight was scheduled to land in Pontianak at about 4.15pm.
“The control tower’s last contact with the plane was at 2.40pm, before the contact was lost,” a spokesman from the Indonesian transport ministry said on Saturday.
“We will assist Basarnas in retrieving wreckage and debris from SJ 182,” Tjahjanto added. “We have been able to retrieve small pieces but for major pieces, we will deploy ships equipped with cranes to lift them.”
READ: More debris found as Indonesian authorities race against time to search for missing Sriwijaya Air plane
Authorities on Sunday said they found debris of what they suspect to belong to the plane, including parts of the plane’s registration number and clothing items.
Rescue personnel also retrieved five bags of human body parts, which have been sent for identification.
This is the first major air crash in Indonesia since 189 passengers and crew members were killed in 2018 when a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max also plunged into the Java Sea soon after takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.