Indonesian divers hear 'pings' as they zero in on wreckage of Lion Air crash
Members of an Indonesian search and rescue mission board dingeys alongside the ship Baruna Jaya I as the search for victims and the flight data recorder from ill-fated Lion Air flight 610 continues on Oct. 31, 2018. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) October 31 at 8:53 AM
JAKARTA, Indonesia â" Search and rescue divers working in Indonesian waters heard regular âpingsâ in what authorities said Wednesday they hope will turn out to be the main body of the Lion Air plane that plunged into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff Monday morning.
A team of rescuers on Tuesday heard pings from an underwater locator beacon with a distinct sound and interval between them â" ruling out that it could be fish and making it very likely that the wreckage and the location of flight recorder have been identified, said Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of Indonesiaâs National Transportation Safety Commission.
âHopefully before long, we can find the black box,â he told reporters. âWe hope the position of the black box is also the position of main wreckage of the ship, and the victims will be there.â
All 189 people onboard are believed to have died in the crash. Finding the main body of the aircraft, including the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, would be a significant development for investigators, who are working to determine what caused the almost new Boeing jet to crash in good weather about 13 minutes after it took flight.
Danang Mandala Prihantoro, a spokesman for Lion Air, said Wednesday that the airline fired its technical director, Muhammad Asif, at the direction of the Ministry of Transportation. An interim replacement was appointed t o the position.
A team of engineers from Boeing was scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on Wednesday for meetings with Lion Air, according to Indonesiaâs transportation safety committee.
One hundred divers were searching five areas off the coast of the island of Java, said Didi Hamzar, the national search-and-rescue agencyâs director of preparedness, after a large, unknown object was detected underwater by an Indonesian naval vessel. So far, rescuers have pulled belongings â" including wallets, purses and phones â" from the water, as well as body parts, but the planeâs fuselage remains missing.
âNow divers are working to confirmâ the object, he said. Officials were expected to have more information by evening, Hamzar added.
[Indonesians recover human remains, belongings from area of crash]
The twin-engine Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane took off from Jakartaâs Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for the mining region of Pangkal Pinang early Mon day. Just a few minutes into the flight, the pilot asked to return to the airport.
Radar showed that the aircraft climbed and descended erratically and that its speed increased dramatically. The flight then lost contact with air traffic control.
Officials said it was too soon to identify the cause of the crash, which has puzzled experts. In the context of Indonesiaâs patchy aviation safety record, however, lawmakers have already started to call for a tightening of standards and a government-led audit of the countryâs airlines.
Bambang Soesatyo, speaker of Indonesiaâs House of Representatives, called on the government Wednesday to conduct an immediate inspection of all airlines operating in the country. The Lion air crash was ânot the first eventâ of aviation trouble in Indonesia, he said.
Indonesia â" the worldâs largest archipelago â" is Southeast Asiaâs biggest aviation market, according to the Center for Aviation, a travel market resear ch company. But the country has suffered from safety oversights in the past.
Its airlines were banned from flying to the United States in 2007 because they were âdeficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures,â the Federal Aviation Administration said. The FAA lifted the ban in 2016 after the countryâs airlines showed signs of improvement. The European Union similarly barred Indonesian carriers from flying into European airspace from 2007 until June.
Lion Air has been involved in a number of incidents in the past few years, but none with fatalities. One of its jets collided with a plane from another carrier, Wings Air, on the island of Sumatra last year, but no one was injured.
In 2013, a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea short of the airport runway on the resort island of Bali. Several people were injured, but no one was killed. Investigators determined the cause of that crash to be pilot error. The plane was also produced by the Chicago-headquartered Boeing and was just weeks old at the time of the accident.
Ainur Rohmah in Jakarta contributed to this report.
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