JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Divers on Thursday recovered a flight recorder from the crashed Lion Air jet on the sea floor, a crucial development in the investigation into what caused the 2-month-old plane to plunge into the sea earlier this week, killing all 189 people on board.
One TV station showed footage of two divers after they surfaced, swimming to an inflatable vessel and placing the bright orange device into a large container that was transferred to a search and rescue ship. Navy divers interviewed on Indonesian television described recovering the flight recorder.
“I was desperate because the current below was strong but I am confident of the tools given to me,” said Navy 1st Sgt. Hendra, who uses a single name. After narrowing the possible location, “I started digging and cleaning the debris until I finally found an orange object,” he said.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed early Monday just minutes after takeoff from Jakarta. It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997 and renewed concerns about safety in its fast-growing aviation industry, which was recently removed from European Union and U.S. blacklists.
Navy colonel Monang Sitompul said what is believed to the aircraft’s fuselage was also seen on the seafloor.
Officials say the location is about 400 meters (yards) northwest of the coordinates where the plane lost contact.
Data from flight-tracking sites show the plane had erratic speed and altitude in the early minutes of a flight on Sunday and on its fatal flight Monday. Safety experts caution, however, that the data must be checked for accuracy against the flight data recorder.
Several passengers on the Sunday flight from Bali to Jakarta have recounted problems that included a long-delayed takeoff for an engine check and terrifying descents in the first 10 minutes in the air.