Indonesia’s search and rescue teams hunting for the wreck of an AirAsia passenger jet detected pings in their efforts to find the black box flight recorders on Friday, an official said, 12 days after the plane went missing with 162 people on board.
An Indonesian search vessel had earlier detected the pings, said Gen. Moeldoko, the head of Indonesia’s armed forces.
He was speaking on board the ship that is being used as a base for divers trying to raise the tail of the AirAsia plane, which went down in the Java Sea on December 28 with 162 people on board.
But there is also caution surrounding the possible pings, because the sound could be emanating from other sources. In the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, several signals raised hopes of locating the missing plane, but proved to be false leads.
The pings were heard near where the plane’s tail was found. Officials say the black box could have been separated from the rear part of the plane.
Batteries that send out the pings last 30 days. It has been 13 days since the AirAsia plane fell into the sea.
The head of the search and rescue agency, Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, said he assumed the flight recorders were still in the tail and that reports they had separated had yet to be confirmed.
“The divers are tying the tail with straps and then we will try (to lift it) two ways – floating balloons combined with cranes, so that the tail sector wouldn’t be damaged,” he told reporters. “Because we assume the black box is in the tail sector.”
He said two bodies had been found still attached to their seats, with local television reporting that one of the recovered seats was from the cockpit.
“Looking for victims is still our main priority besides the black box,” he said.
Relatives of the victims have urged authorities to make finding the remains of their loved ones the priority.
The vast majority of the people on the plane were Indonesian. There were also citizens of Great Britain, France, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.
A total of 48 bodies have so far been recovered from the sea, Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said Friday. Some of the bodies have been found still strapped into seats.