An Indonesian search team yesterday retrieved the tail section of the AirAsia plane that crashed last month into the Java Sea, but the aircraft’s data recorders were not in the recovered wreckage, officials said.
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Ships taking part in the search for the plane, Flight 8501 – which crashed on December 28 with 162 people aboard, en route to Singapore – began to detect signals from the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice and recorders last Thursday.
Officials have since said they believed the crash’s impact had dislodged the recorders from their original housing in the tail section.
“The search for black boxes is continuing,” Indonesia’s transportation minister, Ignasius Jonan, said at a news conference yesterday. “We are worried that in 30 days the signal will be lost. But the main focus remains the recovery of passengers, not the black boxes.”
The transportation minister was referring to the 30-day period after the crash during which the data recorders were expected to keep transmitting signals.
After being thwarted for days by severe underwater currents and near-zero visibility, Indonesian Navy divers were finally able to tie special lifting balloons to the tail section yesterday and attach them to the hook of a crane aboard one of the search ships.
S.B. Supriyadi, the director of operations for the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency, said a survey ship had detected pings, apparently from the data recorders, about half a mile from where the tail wreckage was found, and at roughly the same depth of about 35 meters (115 feet).
As of yesterday afternoon, search teams had recovered 48 bodies, 29 of which had been identified.