JAKARTA - Rescuers at the Lion Air Flight JT610 crash site off the waters of Karawang, West Java, have sent 34 body bags containing human remains, including possibly that of a baby, for DNA testing on Tuesday (Oct 30).
The search for survivors from the ill-fated flight, which plunged into the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Soekarno-Hatta Airport on Monday morning, continues into its second day amid fears that all 189 people on board had died from the crash.
Another 14 other bags of debris from the crash were also recovered, said Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) chief Muhammad Syaugi, although the black box flight recorder has yet to be found.
“We hope we can find the plane’s main fuselage – everything on the surface of the water has been collected,” said Air Marshal Syaugi.
A team of three specialists from Singapore's Transport Safety Investigation Bureau arrived in Jakarta on Monday evening with an underwater locator beacon detector to assist with the search.
The head of a national transport safety panel Soerjanto Tjahjono told Reuters that underwater “pinger locators”, including equipment from Singapore, were being deployed to help find the aircraft’s black boxes.
“We are still searching for the fuselage. Usually the black box would not be far from the fuselage,” said Mr Syaugi on Tuesday afternoon.
“We started at 10.30am, it's been six hours already. Using multi beam echo sounders, we have not picked up any sign of a large object on the sea floor,” he told reporters.
The priority is finding the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder to help determine the cause of the disaster, safety experts have said.
Basarnas operation director Bambang Suryo Aji told a press conference on Monday: "My prediction is that no one is alive."
If no survivors are found, Monday's crash could be one of Indonesia's deadliest aviation disasters since the crash of Garuda Flight GA152, which claimed 234 lives in 1997.
More recently, in December 2014, 162 people died when Air Asia Flight QZ8501 crashed on its way from Surabaya to Singapore.
Deputy police chief Ari Dono Sukmanto, speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday, said police forensic experts are carrying out a series of tests on the remains of bodies from the crash site, but they have yet to establish their identities.
"Yes, one of the remains found was a baby," he said.
More than 130 family members of people on board Lion Air JT610 have provided DNA data to the authorities to assist in the identification of victims.
The 189 people on board flight JT610 included two infants, one child, two pilots, six flight attendants and 20 Finance Ministry staff who were in Jakarta for a commemorative event last Saturday.
Monday's crash has raised questions about the patchy safety record of Lion Air, Indonesia's largest low-cost carrier, including whether the Boeing 737 Max was in a condition to fly after it encountered a technical problem on its last flight from Denpasar, Bali.
Lion Air chief executive Edward Sirait, citing the pilot's records, said on Monday the plane was in a condition to fly.
"There was a technical problem reported after the previous flight the night before from Denpasar to Jakarta, and the problem was dealt with and the plane was subsequently released to fly by a certified engineer," he added.
Lion Air had taken delivery of the Boeing 737 Max plane just over two months back, on Aug 13.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.