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Crashed AirAsia plane: Tail recovered from seabed --- but black box recorder still missing

The Airbus jet, carrying 162 people, went missing in stormy weather on 28 December.

Indonesian police stand on the deck of a National Search And Rescue Agency ship earlier this month.
Indonesian police stand on the deck of a National Search And Rescue Agency ship earlier this month.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE TAIL OF an AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea was lifted to the surface using floating balloons today — but apparently without the crucial black box recorders, Indonesian authorities said.

The Airbus jet, carrying 162 people, went missing in stormy weather on December 28 as it flew from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, and all aboard died.

The tail, which is where the black box data recorders were kept, was found in the seabed 30 metres below the surface and was finally lifted on to a vessel today using giant floating balloons and a crane.

“We have lifted the tail onto the ship. It’s red and white and a big part of the AirAsia logo can be seen,” Navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir told AFP.

On board the KRI Banda Aceh that is one of the Indonesian Navy vessels involved in the search effort, sailors cheered as the tail first emerged at the surface, according to an AFP photographer on board.

The tail is the biggest part of the plane’s wreckage found and could give clues to why it crashed.

But the black boxes, which are crucial to explaining the disaster as they should contain the pilots’ final words as well as various flight data, had likely been dislodged from the tail, according to S.B Supriyadi, a director with the National Search and Rescue Agency.

Pings from the boxes were detected yesterday, raising hopes of quickly retrieving them.

- Frustrating twist -

But the search took a frustrating twist when authorities realised the pings were likely coming from elsewhere than the tail, and the boxes appeared to be buried deep into the sea floor.

“Last night, our divers had opened the door of the tail cabin, searched around but found nothing,” Supriyadi told AFP yesterday morning.

But the boat above detected faint ping sounds believed to be from the black boxes about one mile (1.6 kilometres) southeast of the tail… and covered in mud.

Supriyadi said the divers, from an elite Marines unit, returned this morning to the area believed to be where the pings were emanating from.

“They are searching within a radius of 500 metres from where the pings are emitted. The challenge is that these sounds are very faint. If a ship passes by, the sounds will be drowned out. So we really need calm waters,” he said.

“So far, our divers still have not been able to determine the coordinates of the black box.”

After the tail was found, Supriyadi said authorities remained confident the black boxes remained underwater.

“There’s a team examining the tail again to see if the black boxes are not there,” he told AFP.

“But the chances they might find anything there are slim. We still strongly believe that the black boxes are in the sea and our divers are still searching for them.”

Meanwhile, search efforts also involving foreign naval ships continued for other parts of the plane’s wreckage, as well as for the bodies of the passengers and crew.

Just 48 bodies have been found so far, according to Indonesian authorities.

© AFP, 2015 

 

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