Divers sent to investigate pings from crashed AirAsia jet

Jakarta: Divers were on Saturday sent to investigate underwater pings that may be coming from the flight recorders of the AirAsia plane as efforts continued to retrieve the jet’s tail from the bottom of the Java Sea. “Each team comprises 10 divers,” Commander of the First Squad Indonesian Diver, Ebram Harimurti, said.

“We will work for a week, at least every day. We will attempt to dive four times to the location of the tail section,” he said, adding the first team has been sent to verify the pings.

Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency has deployed 20 professional divers to lift the tail of the ill-fated AirAsia QZ8501 flight that crashed on December 28 enroute to Singapore from Surabaya with 162 people on board.

Despite high waves and strong currents, divers succeeded in fastening inflatable bags to the tail piece, which they plan to use to help raise the section to the surface. But the operation was waiting for a crane to assist in lifting the wreckage from the water.

Searchers spotted the tail section – where the black box is located – 30 kms from the plane’s last known location on Wednesday, a day after divers joined the multi-national hunt.

Officials say the black box could have been separated from the rear part of the plane. The black box contains the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, crucial to determine the cause of the crash.

If the data recorders are retrieved undamaged and downloaded successfully, initial answers over what caused the crash could come within days. Investigators would be able to construct a detailed timeline of what the pilots were doing and how the jet’s systems were operating. The data recorders contain underwater locator beacons which emit the so-called “pings” for at least 30 days.

The search operation is being coordinated by Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency and involves the military, police, and Transportation Ministry. Search teams on Friday recovered the bodies of two victims still in their seats from the tail section, bringing the total number of recovered bodies to 48.

The search and rescue team also retrieved a composite piece from near the aircraft’s wing on Friday, said AirAsia QZ8501 investigator Nurcahyo of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee. Autopsies carried out on several victims have revealed impact injuries such as broken legs, but no burns.

Air-safety experts said that means there likely wasn’t any fire or explosion that tore through the plane on its way down, and the jet probably hit the water at a shallow angle.


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