The flight data recorder of AirAsia QZ8501 is transferred to another container at the airbase in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan January 12, 2015.
CREDIT: REUTERS/DARREN WHITESIDE
(Reuters) – Divers retrieved the cockpit voice recorder from the wreck of an AirAsia passenger jet on Tuesday, an Indonesian investigator told Reuters, a key step towards determining the cause of the crash that killed 162 people.
Indonesia AirAsia’s Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control in bad weather on Dec. 28, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors.
The cockpit voice recorder, which retains the last two hours of conversation between the pilots and with air traffic controllers, was found close to where the flight data recorder was recovered from the bottom of the Java Sea on Monday.
When asked if the so-called black box was found, Santoso Sayogo, an investigator at the National Transportation Safety Committee, told Reuters: “We can confirm”.
Together the black boxes, which are actually orange, contain a wealth of data that will be crucial for investigators piecing together the sequence of events that led to the Airbus A320-200 plunging into the sea.
The cockpit voice recorder was on board an Indonesian navy vessel and expected to be sent to the capital, Jakarta, for analysis, MetroTV said, quoting a transport official.
Investigators may need up to a month to get a complete reading of the data.
The AirAsia group’s first fatal accident took place more than two weeks ago, but wind, high waves and strong currents have slowed efforts to recover bodies and wreckage from the shallow waters off Borneo island.
Dozens of Indonesian navy divers took advantage of calmer weather this week to retrieve the black boxes and now hope to find the fuselage of the Airbus.
Forty-eight bodies have been plucked from the Java Sea and brought to Surabaya for identification. Searchers believe more bodies will be found in the plane’s fuselage.
“Our main task is to find the victims,” Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters before heading to Surabaya to meet families of the victims.
“Even if both (black boxes) are found, it doesn’t mean that our operation is over.”
Relatives of the victims have urged the authorities to make finding the remains of their loved ones the priority.
“Even if the search has to last for a month, we are still hoping to find them,” said Lioni, who lost four family members in the plane crash. “If they can find even one (of my family members), we would feel a little bit relieved.”
(Additional reporting by Fergus Jensen and Eveline Danubrata in JAKARTA, Kanupriya Kapoor in PANGKALAN BUN, and Fransiska Nangoy in SURABAYA; Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Alex Richardson)