Indonesia expands effort to recover crashed plane, victims

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – More searchers and rescuers joined the search Friday for wreckage and victims from an Indonesian plane that crashed last weekend in the Java Sea.

The aerial search for the crashed Sriwijaya Air jet is being expanded too, said the National Search and Rescue Agency mission coordinator, Rasman, who uses one name.

The 4,132 search and rescue personnel are supported by 14 airplanes, 62 ships and 21 raft boats. They are using an underwater metal detector and remotely operated vehicle to find human remains, the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and more wreckage.

The plane carried 62 people and families have been providing DNA samples to identify the victims. National Police spokesperson Rusdi Hartono said 12 had been identified as of Thursday, including a flight attendant and an off-duty pilot.

Investigators already are working to read the technical information from the plane’s flight data recorder, which was salvaged earlier this week.

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee has said the crew did not declare an emergency or report any technical problems before the plane plunged into the sea minutes after taking off from Jakarta in heavy rain. They also say it broke apart upon impact with the water, ruling out a midair explosion, because the debris field is concentrated in one area.

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 underwent inspections, including for possible engine corrosion that could have developed during the layoff, before it resumed commercial flights.

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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