Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-524 crashes into sea after takeoff, carrying 62, Indonesia
Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, Indonesia. On 9 January 2021, the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-524 flying the route disappeared from radar four minutes after departure from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Officials confirmed that the aircraft crashed in the waters off the Thousand Islands, some 19nmi (35km) from the airport. Preliminary investigation suggested that the aircraft's engine(s) were still operating upon impact. Reported by local fishermen, the search for the aircraft was immediately initiated. Although wreckage, human remains and clothing have been found, searches for the full aircraft and all passengers are still ongoing. The flight data recorder was recovered on 12 January 2021 but the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) has not yet been recovered. No survivors have been found. Several eyewitness accounts were reported. A local fisherman reported that part of the aircraft crashed 14m from his location. He said that the aircraft exploded in mid-air and a piece of the aircraft that was on fire fell to the sea, with "shards of a kind of plywood" almost hitting his ship. Meanwhile, residents of the Thousand Islands, near where the airliner crashed, heard two explosions. It was raining in the area at the time. The first report of a crash was made at 14h30WIB, in which a fisherman said that an aircraft had crashed and exploded in the sea. At around 16h00 local time, eyewitnesses coordinated with fire fighters to search for the aircraft. Junaedi, the Regent of Thousand Islands, also reported that something fell and exploded on Laki Island.
Flight 182 was climbing to 13 000ft when it abruptly dived, then it suddenly turned to the right. An air traffic controller (ATC) noticed this and asked the pilots what was happening on board but received no response. According to AirNav Radarbox flight data, the aircraft reported a rapid drop in altitude during the climb phase from 10 900ft to 7 650ft at 07h40UTC. Flightradar24 reported that four minutes after takeoff, the aircraft dropped by 10 000ft in less than a minute. The flight tracker also noted that the aircraft's last recorded altitude was 250ft at 07h40:27UTC. According to provided flight data, the airplane experienced a drop of 1 755ft in just six seconds between 07h40:08 and 07h40:14UTC. It was followed by a drop of 825ft in two seconds, 2 725ft in four seconds and 5 150ft in its last seven seconds. During the fall, the aircraft rapidly changed speed, decreasing and increasing in seconds. Its last contact with ATC was at 14h40WIB in a location between Laki Island and Lancang Island. The aircraft is presumed to have crashed into the Java Sea near Laki Island and 19km from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. According to the ATC, there was no distress call during the flight. Indonesian transport officials also stated that the aircraft failed to follow ATC instructions.
Search and rescue: 9 January 2021
The head of the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency (Indonesian: BASARNAS), reported that the crash site was located 11 nmi (20 km) from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Personnel from a vessel provided by the Ministry of Transportation reported that body parts, fragments of clothing, electronics, personal belongings and wreckage had been recovered from the sea in waters near the Thousand Islands, with aviation fuel also reported around the location. The water near the crash site has a depth of around 15-16m. BASARNAS immediately deployed personnel to the crash site while the Indonesian National Police and the Ministry of Transportation set up crisis centres in Port of Tanjung Priok and Soekarno–Hatta International Airport. The Indonesian Navy deployed a number of vessels for the search and rescue operations, in addition to helicopters and KOPASKA (frogman) personnel.
The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) reported that it will send a research ship to assist in the search and rescue operation. The vessel had been involved previously in search and rescue operations of multiple aviation accidents, including Lion Air Flight 610 and Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 which crashed into the Java Sea as well. Meanwhile, the Indonesian Navy deployed seven ships and divers from the 1st Naval Regional Command to assist the search and rescue process. Soon after, BASARNAS reported that the pings of the aircraft's Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) had not been detected. The exact crash location was later announced to the public. At the same time, the Indonesian Red Cross deployed 50 volunteers and prepared at least 100 body bags for the victims of the accident. Family members of the victims were asked to bring DNA samples and other antemortem information to the Disaster Victims Identification unit at Kramat Jati Hospital in Jakarta. Accommodations for relatives were provided by Sriwijaya Air.
On the night of 9 January 2021, an emergency slide of the aircraft was recovered from the waters near Lancang Island, Thousand Islands. Several other pieces of wreckage were recovered from the crash site; the search and rescue operation was hampered by low visibility.
10 January 2021
On 10 January 2021, Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi along with the Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces Hadi Tjahjanto supervised the search and rescue operation on board the KRI John Lie.
The Indonesian Navy announced that three different methods would be used during the search operation. It would also examine any contrast in the sea and sonar would also be used. The Navy later reported that, based on the findings on sea water contrast, several pieces were detected near the South Laju Island. Sea water contrast also showed a "very clear" evidence of aviation fuel. The Indonesian Navy announced that the exact coordinates of the crash site have been pinpointed. The Indonesian Armed Forces said that four teams of divers would be deployed to the site, while the Indonesian Navy will deploy 150 personnel and helicopters to the crash site. At 03h00WIB, the diving team of KOPASKA dived into the sea in search of remnants from the flight. The Indonesian National Police sent one aircraft, four helicopters, eight boats and fifty divers to the crash site. A total of 192 personnel from the police force was deployed to assist the search and rescue operation. In total, as of 10 January 2021, more than ten ships have been tasked to search for the aircraft.
The search and rescue operation initially had to be halted due to deteriorating weather conditions. However, once it improved, the search and rescue operation was resumed.
At 08h00WIB, police received a bag of body parts; they were later transported to Kramat Jati Hospital. More human remains, as well as life jackets from the aircraft, were also found. Later in the afternoon, more remains and wreckage were recovered from the crash site. Rescuers managed to recover a life vest, pieces from the aircraft's fuselage and a destroyed wheel rim of the Boeing 737. Most of the wreckage was found at a depth of 17-23 metres. Parts of the hydraulic system of the Boeing 737-524, seating number and a part from the registration code of the aircraft had been recovered from the crash site. The scattered debris and the small pieces of the wreckage indicated a high-speed impact. The Indonesian National Armed Forces said that the main focus has now shifted to find the main body of the aircraft. The Indonesian Air Force also said that it had spotted a fuel spill, suspected to be from the aircraft, covering a very large part of the sea, south of Laki island. Among debris recovered, on the morning of 10 January 2021, were parts of the airplane's wheels, a torn steel alloy sheet with blue paint and pink children's jacket and trousers.
By the night of 10 January 2021, BASARNAS had recovered at least sixteen large aircraft parts from the crash site, including one of the aircraft's turbines. At least ten body parts had also been recovered. BASARNAS later reported that the research vessel KRI Rigel had detected pings from the aircraft's flight recorders. The pings were located 200 metres between each other. On the same day, the NTSC confirmed that multiple debris had been identified, including the aircraft's door, GPWS, radio altimeter, and some part from the aircraft's empennage.
The NTSC reported that they had located the position of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders and that divers would start looking for them.
11 January 2021
On 11 January 2021, BASARNAS said that the main focus of the search and rescue operation had shifted to retrieve the aircraft's flight recorders from the seabed; a remotely operated underwater vehicle was to be deployed to the crash site to search for them. Both flight recorders were suspected to be buried under the aircraft's wreckage and mud. BMKG forecast that the weather in the morning would be good enough for the search operation to resume, however, it was expected to deteriorate later in the afternoon and the night, with expected wind speed of 8-15 knots to the southwest.
As of 11 January, some 2 600 personnel were involved in the search operation, with more than 50 ships and 13 aircraft searching for the wreckage. A heavy rainstorm hampered the work of divers. The team utilised the Triangle Method: the search area was narrowed to a triangle. Four ships, of the Garuda Jaya class, equipped with special tools to make the search easier, were planned to be used the next day if necessary. Ten more pieces of debris, including six large parts from the aircraft, were recovered from the crash site.
At least 40 DNA samples had been retrieved by the Disaster Victims Identification Unit. The first identification of human remains was achieved by the police using the Indonesia Automatic Finger Print Identification System (INAFIS). By the end of the day, a total of 74 human remains had been recovered from the crash site.
12 January 2021
On 12 January 2021, the Indonesian Government requested help from the South Korean Government with the search and rescue operation. In response, the South Korean Government, through the Korea-Indonesia Marine Technology Cooperation Research Centre (MTCRC), will deploy research vessels and underwater detectors and will join the search and rescue effort.
As there were concerns that the debris might have drifted due to sea current, BASARNAS announced that the search area would be widened to nine sectors; a pinger locator provided by the Singaporean government was to be brought to a NTSC search vessel.
At 16h00WIB, the flight data recorder was retrieved by KOPASKA and the Indonesian Navy's Armada 1 (1st Fleet) team. It will be sent to JICT 2 at Tanjung Priok, where it will be subject to further inspection. While it was announced on 10 January 2021 that the position of both flight recorders had been located, the Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces said on 12 January 2021 that two underwater locator beacons had been found but the cockpit voice recorder needs to be found without the assistance from underwater guidance signals. The beacons on both flight recorders were dislodged in the impact.
As of 12 January 2021, a total of 58 DNA samples had been collected from the relatives and a total of 26 pieces of debris from the aircraft had been recovered; the remains of at least four people had been identified, including the deadheading first officer.
13 January 2021
BASARNAS resumed the search and rescue operation. However, it was halted because the inclement weather was too dangerous for the divers. Divers were able to recover only two pieces of debris. BASARNAS stated that the search area will be widened again. Meanwhile, Indonesian Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) stated that the search for CVR will be held until 18 January.
14 January 2021
On 14 January 2021, BASARNAS stated that more sectors would be added to the search area. The surface search area would be divided into six sectors, while the underwater search area would be divided into four main sectors. BPPT announced that 34 locations of the aircraft's wreckage had been pinpointed and a thorough examination would be conducted.
In the afternoon, BASARNAS reported that several search and rescue personnel had tested "reactive" for COVID-19 screening, though an exact number was not given.
Sources: Reuters, BBC, The New York Times, The Jakarta Times