Navy divers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea in October, Indonesian officials said Monday, in a possible boost to the investigation into why the 2-month-old plane nosedived at high velocity, killing 189 people.
Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy maritime minister, told reporters that remains of some of the people who died in the crash were also discovered at the seabed location.
A spokesman for the Indonesian navy’s western fleet, Lt. Col. Agung Nugroho, said divers using high-tech “ping locator” equipment started a new search effort last week in a previously identified target area and found the voice recorder beneath 8 meters of seabed mud. The plane crashed in waters 30 meters deep.
The bright orange device was transported to a port in Jakarta, where it was handed over to the National Transportation Safety Committee, which is overseeing the accident investigation.
“This is good news, especially for us who lost our loved ones,” said Irianto, the father of Rio Nanda Pratama, a doctor who died in the crash.
“Even though we don’t yet know the contents of the CVR, this is some relief from our despair,” he said.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, on Oct. 29, killing everyone on board.
The cockpit data recorder was recovered three days after the crash and showed that the jet’s airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights. Lion Air initially claimed that problems with the aircraft were fixed before its final flight.
If the voice recorder is undamaged, it could provide valuable additional information to investigators.
The transport committee’s chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said the device will be taken to the investigators’ “black box” facility. It will take three to five days to dry and clean the device and to download its data, he said.
“To analyze it, we need more time, depending on the complexity of the problem. Data obtained from CVR is expected to complete our investigation data,” Tjahjono said.
Data from a preliminary investigation report, which didn’t state any conclusions, showed that the plane’s nose pointed down 26 times on its fatal 11-minute flight despite repeated efforts by the pilots to manually aim the nose higher.
Rear Adm. Harjo Susmoro, head of the navy’s Center for Hydrography and Oceanography, said the voice recorder was found just 50 meters from where the data recorder was located.
A “heroic” team of 21 divers removed debris and carried out “desludging” operations to reach the voice recorder, he said.
Susmoro said the voice recorder’s signal, designed to last 90 days following a crash, would have stopped after about 15 days.
The family of one of the pilots, 41-year-old Harvino, has sued Boeing Co. in Chicago, alleging that aircraft sensors provided inaccurate information, causing the plane to nosedive, and that Boeing failed to provide proper training to pilots on the 737 MAX 8’s features.
Indonesian media reported in December that Lion Air’s chief executive, Edward Sirait, said the airline was considering canceling its remaining orders for nearly 200 of the Boeing planes.
The Lion Air crash was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people died on a Garuda flight near Medan. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing all 162 people on board.
Lion Air is one of Indonesia’s youngest airlines but has grown rapidly, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.