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Indonesia ends search for crashed plane's victims, debris

FADLAN SYAM
·2-min read

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities on Thursday ended the search for remaining victims and debris from a Sriwijaya Air jet that nosedived into the Java Sea, killing all 62 people on board.

Transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi said retrieval operations have ended after nearly two weeks, but that a limited search for the missing memory unit from the cockpit voice recorder will continue.

The memory unit apparently broke away from other parts of the voice recorder during the crash. Divers retrieved its battered casing and cover last week near the location where the flight data recorder was recovered three days after the accident.

The Boeing 737-500 jet crashed on Jan. 9, minutes after taking off from Jakarta, the capital.

Searchers have recovered plane parts and human remains from an area between Lancang and Laki islands in the Thousand Island chain just north of Jakarta.

“After much consideration, we have to close the search and rescue operation today,” Sumadi told reporters. “However, we are committed to continue efforts to find the cockpit voice recorder."

The government will provide a ship to take relatives to the crash site for a memorial ceremony on Friday morning, Sumadi said.

So far, 43 victims have been identified from more than 300 body bags containing human remains sent to the National Police’s disaster victim identification unit.

Investigators are working with Boeing and engine maker General Electric to review information from the flight data recorder, which tracks hundreds of parameters showing how the plane was being operated.

A team from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration is joining the investigation.

Investigators will publish a preliminary investigation report within a month after the crash.

The 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 was out of service for almost nine months last year because of flight cutbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The airline and Indonesian officials say it passed inspections, including for possible engine corrosion, before resuming commercial flights in December.

Indonesia’s aviation industry grew quickly after the nation’s economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. Safety concerns led the United States and the European Union to ban Indonesian carriers for years, but the bans have since been lifted due to better compliance with international aviation standards.

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Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Edna Tarigan contributed to this report.