Authorities sift through 'scattered' body parts, belongings, to identify victims in Indonesia plane crash
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (front row C, in white), Indonesia's Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi (front row L), and National Search and Rescue head Muhammad Syaugi (front row R, in red) tour the operations centre as recovered debris from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 are laid out at a port in northern Jakarta on Oct. 30, 2018. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) October 30 at 7:13 AM
JAKARTA, Indonesia â" They came to a police hospital here from all over the country, turning over the most personal belongings of their loved ones â" a toothbrush, diplomas, photos â" and swabbed their cheeks, providing DNA samples to aid authorities i n finding a match with the body parts that continue to be dredged up from the sea.
Families of the 189 victims on the ill-fated Lion Air Flight 610 will now spend their days agonizingly waiting for the inevitable confirmation that their loved ones died in a still-unexplained crash off the coast of the Java Sea, as rescuers continue to search for the planeâs fuselage, the black box and bodies submerged among the debris.
The Lion Air flight, an almost new Boeing 737 Max 8, took off from Jakarta heading to the mining region of Pangkal Pinang on Monday morning, when just a few minutes later its pilot sent an emergency call to the control tower and asked to return. It erratically climbed and fell, its speed gaining dramatically, before losing contact and falling into the sea from an altitude of about 3,000 feet â" what would have been an excruciating and prolonged period of panic for the pilot, crew and passengers on board in their final moments.
Aviation expe rts and authorities, including the head of Indonesiaâs National Transportation Safety Committee, told The Washington Post that it is too early to speculate on the cause of the crash. Lion Air has provided information on the aircraft and its maintenance logs to authorities, the chairman of the NTSC said.
The flight data shows that the same aircraft had flown abnormally just a day before, with unusual variations in altitude and speed during takeoff.
Indonesian TV presenter Conchita Caroline, a passenger on that plane when it took off from the resort island of Bali on Sunday night, said in a post on Instagram that she heard the engine make a weird noise during takeoff that continued throughout the flight. She added that the flight was delayed for more than an hour while a technical issue was being resolved.
Lion Air Groupâs chief executive, Edward Sirait, said Monday that a prior technical difficulty with the plane was resolved âaccording to procedur eâ and that the aircraft was cleared by engineers for take off.
[All feared dead after Indonesian passenger jet crashes into the sea]
As experts attempt to determine what could cause an almost new plane to fall out of clear skies, a growing team of rescuers aided by sonar equipment and underwater drones are searching for the wreckage, which could provide crucial clues to what went wrong. Fifty divers have been deployed to the crash site off the coast close to Jakarta and have expanded the radius of the search, which is expected to last at least a week.
âWe need more time to find the main body [of the aircraft],â said Didi Hamzar, the national search-and-rescue agencyâs director of preparedness. âWe hope that by finding the main fuselage, a black box will be foundâ as well.
On Tuesday, rescuers dredged up belongings of those on board â" passports, childrenâs shoes, identity cards â" and officials picked through them to identify the peopl e who once owned them. None of the bodies discovered so far have been intact; they have been sent in pieces in 26 body bags to a police hospital, where they will be identified by a forensic team. The process is expected to take between four and five days.
âNone of what we have received is in the form of a full body,â said Brig. Gen. Arthur Tampi, head of the National Police Medical and Health Center in Jakarta. âSo, it is better if a family member does not open [the body bags] because it can cause trauma.â
He cautioned that not all the victims will be found. A police officer added that the body parts are âscatteredâ all over, complicating the DNA identification process.
At the police hospital on Tuesday afternoon, family members filled out stacks of paperwork at the Disaster Victim Identification unit, ascertaining the names of the victims and providing details about special markings or tattoos on their bodies. Officials handed out packets of Kent ucky Fried Chicken and boxed drinks to the families, many of whom had been waiting at the facility for hours, growing frustrated by the lack of information.
For 64-year-old Edi, who like many Indonesians uses one name, it was news of his recently married niece, Amalia âAyuâ Resky, 27, that he was waiting for. He had arrived at the hospital around daybreak and went through the motions of filling out the relevant paperwork.
âIf they find Ayuâs body, weâre bringing her back to Palembang. Her mother wants her there,â he said, referring to the capital of South Sumatra, the Indonesian region where she was from.
He remembered his surprise when his sister, Ayuâs mother, called.
âShe seldom calls. So I asked, âWhy are you calling me?ââ he said. âShe said, âDid you hear what happened?ââ
Mahtani reported from Hong Kong. Ainnur Rohmah in Jakarta contributed to this report.
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