Families of Sriwijaya Air jet crash victims hold memorial at sea

JAKARTA (AFP) – Relatives of 62 people killed when an Indonesian passenger jet slammed into the sea scattered flowers at the crash site on Friday (Jan 22), 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 3,000m 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.

 An Indonesian relative of a victim of the crashed Sriwijaya air plane SJ182 cries before she lays the flowers from Indonesian Navy Hospital ship KRI Semarang on the crash site on Jakarta Bay's Water, Indonesia. - EPA pic
An Indonesian relative of a victim of the crashed Sriwijaya air plane SJ182 cries before she lays the flowers from Indonesian Navy Hospital ship KRI Semarang on the crash site on Jakarta Bay’s Water, Indonesia. – EPA pic

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.

Sriwijaya Air crew members and families pay their last respects to colleagues and loved ones who died on flight SJ182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, during a ceremony at the crash site off the coast on January 22. - AFP pic
Sriwijaya Air crew members and families pay their last respects to colleagues and loved ones who died on flight SJ182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, during a ceremony at the crash site off the coast. - AFP pic
Sriwijaya Air crew members and families pay their last respects to colleagues and loved ones who died on flight SJ182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, during a ceremony at the crash site off the coast. – AFP pic

On Friday, dozens of relatives tossed red petals from the deck of a navy ship, some overcome with emotion.

A man breaks into tears alongside Sriwijaya Air crew members and families paying their last respects to colleagues and loved ones who died on flight SJ182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, during a ceremony at the crash site off the coast. - AFP pic
A man breaks into tears alongside Sriwijaya Air crew members and families paying their last respects to colleagues and loved ones who died on flight SJ182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, during a ceremony at the crash site off the coast. – AFP pic

“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.

Investigators inspect debris from Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 which crashed into the Java sea minutes after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, at the port in Jakarta on January 21. - AFP pic
Investigators inspect debris from Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 which crashed into the Java sea minutes after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, at the port in Jakarta on January 21. – AFP pic

“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.

Sriwijaya Air crew members and families pay their last respects to colleagues and loved ones who died on flight SJ182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, during a ceremony at the crash site off the coast on January 22. - AFP pic
Sriwijaya Air crew members and families pay their last respects to colleagues and loved ones who died on flight SJ182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9, during a ceremony at the crash site off the coast on January 22. – AFP pic

“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.

Indonesian relatives of the victims of the crashed Sriwijaya air plane SJ182 pray as they lay the flowers from the Indonesian Navy Hospital ship KRI Semarang on the crash site on Jakarta Bay's Water, Indonesia. - EPA pic
Indonesian relatives of the victims of the crashed Sriwijaya air plane SJ182 pray as they lay the flowers from the Indonesian Navy Hospital ship KRI Semarang on the crash site on Jakarta Bay’s Water, Indonesia. – EPA pic

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.

AFP / NST

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