Indonesian authorities seeking to solve the mystery behind the Lion Air plane crash have recovered only a section of what they suspect is the flight data recorder, the latest challenge in the investigation into what downed the Boeing Co jet.
Search teams have been scouring the seabed for the fuselage of the Boeing-737 MAX 8, which plunged into the waters off Indonesia's northern coast shortly after takeoff Monday despite only having been in service a few months.
Investigators said the damage suffered by the first data device reflected the severity of the impact.
Divers are still searching for the cockpit voice recorder.
"We're going to start today to dive at the place where we think the aircraft crashed", said Isswarto, commander of the division of research of the navy of indonesia. Though the depth in the area of the crash is only about 35 meters, strong currents and waves are making searches hard, he said.
Meanwhile, a video allegedly shot on board the plane minutes before it crashed is also doing the rounds. "He requested to return to the airport for RTB [return to base] but ... they updated and flew to Jakarta".
Divers were battling strong currents as they scoured the surface of the sea, and had widened the search area, pulling out heaps of debris, including life jackets and clothing.
Under normal conditions, the data should only take two hours to download, said Satmiko, although analysing it could take several weeks.
Hopes are fading of finding a large section of fuselage intact, with easily retrievable bodies inside. "That it was found so early will help a lot in figuring out what happened to the plane that crashed", he said.
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Relatives are desperate to be able to say goodbye to their loved ones and the first funeral for one of the passengers held on Thursday.
"During that period, there were indeed measures that the [aircraft's] operators must carry out on the airworthiness of each aircraft in reference to procedures set by the civil aviation directorate general", he said.
More than four days after Lion Air flight JT610 carrying 189 people plunged into the sea, Indonesian search crews have fished out little else than small pieces of the aircraft, body parts of victims and personal belongings.
The privately owned budget carrier was founded in 1999.
Lion Air said the aircraft that crashed had been airworthy and the pilot and co-pilot had 11,000 hours of flying time between them.
Divers would also be sent to check, he said.
Indonesia is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record is patchy. Asked about the accuracy of the report, National Transportation Safety Committee deputy head Haryo Satmiko said it had "similarities" with the information received "legally" by investigators.
The ministry on Wednesday ordered the airline to suspend its director for maintenance and the engineer who cleared the ill-fated for flying even after the pilots had reported technical issues during a trip a day before the crash.
Boeing and US National Transportation Safety Board officials have joined the Indonesian team in sifting through twisted metal plane parts and piles of passengers' torn clothing, shoes, wallets and phones.