Indonesian authorities recover human remains, personal belongings from area of plane crash
October 30 at 5:37 PM
JAKARTA, Indonesia â" They came to a police hospital here from all over the country, turning over the most personal of belongings of their loved ones â" toothbrushes, diplomas, photos â" and swabbed their cheeks, providing DNA samples to aid authorities in finding matches Tuesday with the body parts that continue to be recovered from the sea.
Families of the 189 people aboard Lion Air Flight 610 are likely to spend agonizing days awaiting confirmation that their loved ones died in an unexplained crash in the Java Sea as rescuers continue to search for the planeâs fuselage, its data recorders and human remains.
The Lion Air flight aboard a 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 into the flight, the flight crew asked to return to the airport.
Radar showed that the aircraft climbed and descended erratically, and that its speed increased dramatically. Then contact with it was lost.
Aviation experts and authorities, including the head of Indonesiaâs National Transportation Safety Committee, told The Washington Post that it is too early to offer any theory on the cause of the crash. Lion Air has provided information on the aircraft and its maintenance logs to authorities, the NTSC chairman said.
Flight records indicate that the same aircraft had flown abnormally just a day before, with unusual variations in altitude and speed while it was climbing after takeoff.
Indonesian TV presenter Conchita Caroline, a passenger on that flight when it took off from the resort island of Bali on Sunday night, said in a post on Instagram that she heard a weird engine noise during takeoff and that the noise continued throughout the flight. She added that the flight had been delayed for mo re than an hour while a technical issue was being addressed.
Lion Air Groupâs chief executive, Edward Sirait, said Monday that a prior technical problem was resolved âaccording to procedureâ and that engineers had cleared the aircraft to fly.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday evening, the airlineâs director of safety, Daniel Putut Kuncoro Adi, said all the other Boeing 737 Max 8 planes operated by the airline are being inspected.
A team from Boeing is heading to Indonesia to assist the investigation, he added.
[All feared dead after Indonesian passenger jet crashes into the sea]
Indonesian officials said that penalties â" including grounding Lion Air â" are not out of the question but that such action âcanât be judged this early.â
As experts try to determine what could cause a new plane to crash in apparently favorable operating conditions, rescue and recovery workers 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 near 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, Hamzar said, using a common term applied to the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder.
On Tuesday, rescuers were recovering belongings of those on board â" passports, childrenâs shoes, identity cards â" and officials picked through them to help make identifications. Of those who were aboard the plane, only fragmentary remains have been recovered so far. They are being sent to a police hospital, where a forensics team will work to make identifications.
So far, none of the r emains have been identified or matched to those who were listed as being aboard the plane.
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.
He cautioned that not all human remains will be recovered. A police officer added that the wide scattering of human remains is likely to complicate the DNA identifications.
The airline is housing relatives of the planeâs passengers and crew members at a nearby hotel and is providing psychological counseling.
At the police hospital Tuesday afternoon, family members filled out stacks of paperwork at the Disaster Victim Identification Unit, providing information including details of special markings or tattoos to aid in identifications.
Officials provided food and drinks for the relatives, many of whom had been waiting at the facility for hours and were growing frustrated over a lack of definitiv e information about the crash and the recovery process.
One of those awaiting news of a relative was 64-year-old Edi, who, like many Indonesians, uses one name. His recently married niece, Amalia âAyuâ Resky, 27, was on the flight. 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 province where she was from.
He remembered his surprise when his sister, Ayuâs mother, called him.
âShe seldom calls. So I asked, âWhy are you calling me?âââ he said. âShe said, âDid you hear what happened?âââ
Mahtani reported from Hong Kong. Ainnur Rohmah in Jakarta contributed to this report.
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