Wreckage from a passenger plane that went missing off Indonesia’s coast shortly after take off has been discovered by divers, the country’s air chief said Sunday, as hopes diminished that survivors would be found.
Parts from the Boeing 737-500 were found at a depth of about 75 feet in the Java Sea, Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said in a statement, a day after Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182 disappeared with 62 people on board, all of them Indonesian nationals.
Three babies and seven other children were among the 50 passengers and six working crew members were aboard, along with six other crew for another flight.
Tjahjanto said body parts had been found by divers, along with pieces of clothing and scraps of metal and broken pieces of fuselage with aircraft registration parts.
“We are sure that is the point where the plane crashed,” he said.
As families gathered to await more information and news of loved ones, authorities established two crisis centers — one at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, where the plane departed from, and another at a nearby port.
On social media, people began circulating photos and videos of family members who were passengers on the flight. One video shows a woman with her children waving goodbye while walking through the airport.
Expressing his “deep condolences for this tragedy,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Sunday said his country was “doing our best to save the victims.”
“We pray together so that the victims can be found,” he said, adding that Indonesia’s National Transport Safety Committee would conduct an investigation.
Officials also believe the location of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder — the so-called black box — had been discovered, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Bagus Puruhito told reporters on Sunday.
Emergency signals transmitted by the devices were detected by a navy ship’s sonar system, he said.
The flight to Supadio International Airport in the city of Pontianak had been delayed for an hour before it took off at around 2:40 p.m local time (2:40 a.m. ET) on Saturday, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said Saturday.
It disappeared from radar just four minutes after departure after losing more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than a minute.
Sriwijaya Air CEO Jefferson Irwin Jauwena told a news conference on Saturday that the plane — which is 26 years old and previously used by carriers in the United States — was “airworthy.”
The plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage.
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Founded in 2003, Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.
Boeing said in a statement on Saturday that it was in contact with the airline.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents because of aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.
Between 2007 and 2016, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lowered its Indonesia safety evaluation to Category 2, meaning its regulatory system was inadequate. Indonesian officials say they have worked hard to bring safety up to international standards.
This is the second air crash off the coast of Indonesia in just over two years. A Boeing 737 Max operated by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed off Jakarta in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hopes for survivors fades as plane wreckage found off Indonesian coast The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ NBC News.