Relatives of 62 people killed when an Indonesian passenger jet slammed into the sea scattered flowers at the crash site Friday, as investigators look for clues to why the plane dropped from the sky minutes after takeoff.
The memorial came as the search for human remains and wreckage ended two weeks after the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged roughly 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) in less than a minute before crashing into waters off Jakarta.
However, the hunt continues for a still-missing cockpit voice recorder, as investigators pore over details from a retrieved flight data recorder — so-called black boxes that could be critical to the probe.
Maintenance logs pointed to an issue with the plane’s autothrottle, which controls engine power, authorities said, but it was not clear what role — if any — the apparent malfunction played.
On Friday, dozens of relatives tossed red petals from the deck of a navy ship, some overcome with emotion.
“When I cast the flowers I could see my sister’s face on the surface of the water,” said Heri Purnomo, whose older sibling Agus Minardi and her husband were on the flight.
“I burst into tears… It was a very sad moment.”
Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, the airline’s president director, said he was “devastated” by the accident which claimed 12 crew lives.
“We also feel sad and lost,” he said.
So far, 47 of the 62 victims have been identified through fingerprints and DNA matches to living family.
But Bety Saprianti, 33, who lost five relatives, is waiting for her aunt to be officially identified.
“We did not attend the ceremony today. None of our family joined — it was too painful,” she said.
“Our only hope now is (the last) of our relatives is identified soon.”
The 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after setting off from Jakarta, bound for Pontianak city on Borneo island, a 90-minute flight away.
Authorities said the crew did not declare an emergency or report technical problems with the aircraft before its dive, and that it was probably intact when it hit the water — citing a relatively small area where the wreckage was scattered.
The crash probe is likely to take months, but a preliminary report is expected next month.
An Indonesian budget airline plane with 62 people on board is suspected to have crashed into the sea shortly after the Boeing 737 took off from Jakarta airport on Saturday, authorities said.
Flight tracking data showed the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged into a steep dive about four minutes after it left Soekarno-Hatta international airport.
Sixty-two passengers and crew were on board, including 10 children, the nation’s transport minister, Budi Karya Sumadi, told reporters.
The suspected crash site is near tourist islands just off the coast of Indonesia’s sprawling capital.
Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 was bound for Pontianak on Indonesia’s section of Borneo island, about 90 minutes flying time over the Java Sea.
Distraught relatives waited nervously for news at the city’s airport.
“I have four family members on the flight — my wife and my three children,” Yaman Zai said as he sobbed.
“(My wife) sent me a picture of the baby today…How could my heart not be torn into pieces?”
The plane took off on Saturday afternoon and a search and rescue operation began with no official results available on Saturday night.
“We deployed our team, boats and sea riders to the location suspected to be where it went down after losing contact,” Bambang Suryo Aji, a senior official at the search-and-rescue agency, told reporters after nightfall.
Data from FlightRadar24 said the plane reached an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet (3,350 metres) before dropping suddenly to 250 feet. It then lost contact with air traffic control.
“Sriwijaya Air flight #SJ182 lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta,” the tracking agency said on its official Twitter account.
Broadcaster Kompas TV quoted local fishermen as saying they had found debris near islands just off the coast of the capital Jakarta, but it could not be immediately confirmed as having belonged to the missing jet.
Authorities and the airline gave no immediate indication as to why the plane suddenly went down.
The budget airline, which has about 19 Boeing jets that fly to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, said only that it was investigating the loss of contact.
In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet slammed into the Java Sea about 12 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a routine one-hour flight.
That crash — and a subsequent fatal flight in Ethiopia — saw Boeing hit with $2.5 billion in fines over claims it defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which was grounded worldwide following the two deadly crashes.
The Boeing jet thought to have crashed Saturday is not a MAX model.
“We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation,” the US-based planemaker said in a statement.
“We are working to gather more information.”
Indonesia’s aviation sector has long suffered from a reputation for poor safety, and its airlines were once banned from entering US and European airspace.
In 2014, an AirAsia plane crashed with the loss of 162 lives.
Domestic investigators’ final report on the AirAsia crash showed a chronically faulty component in a rudder control system, poor maintenance and the pilots’ inadequate response were major factors in what was supposed to be a routine flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
A year later, in 2015, more than 140 people, including people on the ground, were killed when a military plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Medan on Sumatra island.
At least 15 people died and dozens were injured on Friday when a passenger plane carrying 100 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Kazakhstan’s largest city and slammed into a house, state media reported.
The Fokker 100 Bek Air plane disappeared from the radar minutes after it took off from Almaty airport at 7.05 am (01:05 GMT) on its way to the capital Nur-Sultan with 95 passengers and five crew members, the airport authority said in a statement.
It hit a concrete barrier and then slammed into a two-storey building. The reason for the crash, which took place near the city’s boundary northeast of the airport, was not immediately known.
A video released by the Central Asian country’s emergencies committee showed the plane split into pieces with its nose crushed into a partially collapsed house, as rescue crews worked to pull people from the wreckage.
Rescue workers could be seen reaching into the windows of the shattered cockpit, as scores of emergency staff rushed to the site.
The head of Almaty’s health service, Tleukhan Abildayev, said 14 people died at the scene while a young woman died later in hospital.
A total of 66 people were injured, of whom 50 were hospitalised, with 12 in an “extremely serious condition”, he said.
Nine children were among the injured.
Kazakhstan responded to the crash by grounding the model, which makes up the whole of the Bek Air fleet
No one was inside the house that the plane crashed into, Khabar state television reported.
– Those responsible ‘will be punished’ –
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pledged to provide families of the victims with compensation and tweeted that those responsible “will be severely punished in accordance with the law.”
Tokayev also said that a government commission had been set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
The interior ministry said it had launched a criminal investigation into the incident over violations of air transport safety rules.
The plane was 23 years old and had passed safety checks in May, Kazakh authorities said.
The industry ministry said in a statement that the Fokker-100 model, which is no longer manufactured, would be grounded until the cause of the accident became clear.
Bek Air describes itself on its website as Kazakhstan’s first low-cost airline.
In March 2016, a Bek Air Fokker-100 plane with 116 passengers made an emergency landing at the capital’s international airport after its landing gear failed to deploy. None of the passengers or five-member crew were injured.
Swiss regional carrier Helvetic Airways phased out its Dutch-built Fokker-100s earlier this year after 15 years of service.
Informburo.kz news agency said one of its journalists, Dana Kruglova, was among the dead.
“(Her) trip had been uncertain, since she had work meetings planned in Almaty. But Dana wanted to celebrate the New Year with her parents in Nur-Sultan and decided to take this flight,” the news agency said.
An Airbus 330-300 operated by Thai Airways skidded off the runway at Bangkok’s main international airport after the nose wheel collapsed on landing late Sunday night, injuring 14 passengers, the airline said.
The flight from Guangzhou, China, was carrying 288 passengers and 14 crew members. Passengers were evacuated using emergency slides and the 14 injured were sent to a Bangkok hospital, Thai Airways said.
“Thai Airways International Flight TG 679 from Guangzhou was scheduled to arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 23:00 hours local time. The nose gear failed as the plane touched the runway causing the plane to skid,” the airline said in an emailed statement.
“Sparks were noticed from the vicinity of the right landing gear near the engine; the matter is under investigation” by Thai civil aviation officials, it said.
Bangkok’s futuristic Suvarnabhumi airport opened seven years ago and has since become one of the busiest airports in Asia. Built to handle 45 million passengers a year, Suvarnabhumi Airport is already seeing 53 million passengers annually.
The airport is expanding a new passenger terminal and adding more parking bays and a new runway to enable it to handing 60 million fliers by 2017, according to the Airports of Thailand Public Company Ltd.