Searchers have located wreckage and body parts from a crashed Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 that plunged into the sea shortly after take-off and may have detected a signal.
Officials said objects found by divers in about 75 ft (23m) of water included broken pieces of the fuselage with aircraft registration.
“We received reports from the diver team that the visibility in the water is good and clear, allowing the discovery of some parts of the plane,” Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said on Sunday. “We are sure that is the point where the plane crashed.”
Agence France Presse cited a Transport Ministry statement saying a military vessel had detected a signal from the flight, although it did not specify it was from the plane’s black boxes.
Finding the flight data and cockpit voice recorders will be crucial to determining what went wrong on the 26-year-old plane.
The Boeing 737-500, registered PK-CLC, with 62 people on board, was performing flight SJ-182 from Jakarta to Pontianak in Indonesia on January 9 when it plunged into the sea just five minutes after take-off.
According to Aviation Herald, the 737 was about 11 nautical miles north of Jakarta’s Soekarno International Airport over the Java Sea when radar and radio contact was lost with the aircraft.”
The website said the aircraft had departed Soekarno International Airport at 2:36 local time, climbed through 1700 feet and was cleared to 29,000 feet.
“Departure control subsequently noticed that the aircraft was not on its assigned heading of 075 degrees, but tracking northwesterly and queried the crew about the heading at 14:40L, but received no reply, within second(s) the aircraft disappeared from radar,” it said.
Flightradar24 ADS-B data showed the 737 departed on runway 25R at 07:36Z and was climbing through 10,600 feet at 07:39:50 UTC about 11nm north of Soekarno airport then lost 10,000ft of altitude in less than a minute.
Three fishermen from nearby Lancang Island told CNN they had heard an explosion and experienced a sudden large wave about the time the plane is thought to have crashed in dark and rainy conditions.
They smelled fuel and spotted debris, one of them said.
Indonesian authorities have begun the search for the flight recorders and said the aircraft was carrying 50 passengers, including seven children and three babies, and 12 crew members. All are believed to be Indonesian.
One passenger is said to have missed the flight because his COVID PCR test results had not arrived prior to departure.
The crash aircraft is more than 26 years old but airline officials said it was in good condition. It is a much older plane than the 737 MAX and pre-dates a controversial flight software system linked to two fatal MAX crashes.
Debris and body parts were initially located in waters of about 15 meters depth near Lancang Island part of the Thousand Islands, to the north of Jakarta’s coast.
They were found by the crew of a ship that had been about 6 nautical miles from the crash site and who had seen an object fall into the water.
An official from Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Barsanas, confirmed that search and rescue teams operating between two islands in Indonesia’s Thousand Islands district had found debris suspected to be from the missing flight.
In a statement, Boeing said: “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta regarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182. Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support them during this difficult time.”
The pictures below have been posted on Twitter of wreckage being picked up by fishermen.
Sriwijaya is rated by AirlineRatings as a four-star airline (out of seven) prior to this accident. It will be re-rated to a one-star airline. It mainly serves Indonesian domestic destinations but also flies to Timor.
It has not had a fatal crash and its most recent accident before this one, according to the Aviation Safety Network, was a 2017 runway overrun involving a Boeing 737-300.