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Lion Air crash: Black box recovered from wreckage of sunken JT610

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Indonesian navy divers on Thursday recovered the flight data recorder from the wreckage of Lion Air flight JT610 which holds vital clues on what caused the plane to crash into sea on Monday.

[JAKARTA] Indonesian navy divers on Thursday recovered the flight data recorder from the wreckage of Lion Air flight JT610 which holds vital clues on what caused the plane to crash into sea on Monday.

"We followed the device, and narrowed the area (of search) and then we dug again the location where the sensitive (ping) sound was heard and finally found the blackbox," said diver Sertu Hendra who found the black box in the waters of Java Sea.

He added the black box was found in good condition and at a depth of about 30m.

Retrieving the black box will be key to on-going investigation into the cause of Monday's crash, one of the worst in the country's aviation history. All 189 people on board are feared dead.

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Aviation experts have said the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder hold data and information that help explain nearly nine in 10 crashes.

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said on Wednesday its probe into the crash of Lion Air JT610 may take up to six months.

The search for black boxes normally takes days and even weeks. The black boxes of Air Asia QZ8501, which plunged into the Java Sea en route from Surabaya to Singapore on Dec 24, 2014 and killed 162 people on board, was found after 16 days of search.

The national search and rescue agency Basarnas chief Muhammad Syaugi told reporters earlier that the search on Thursday morning will focus on sector four of the search area that is divided into 13 sectors.

"(Sector four) is the area where we detected what we suspect is a body part of the plane. And also where we picked up the 'ping'," he said, referring to the sound emitting from the black boxes and picked up by underwater "pinger locators".

The search area has been doubled in size to cover a 10-nautical-mile-radius area with the centre located at the point where the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after take-off on Monday morning.

Mr Muhammad told Elshinta radio on Thursday morning that the search teams will have a better chance of recovering the black boxes on Thursday after they received the go-ahead from state oil company Pertamina to throw an anchor to stabilise the main search and rescue vessel.

"Yesterday afternoon, the currents were strong. We had to throw an anchor, but we only had clearance to do so last night from Pertamina. The sea floor there is lined with Pertamina pipes," he said.

The Boeing 737 Max plane crashed into the Java Sea en route from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang, Bangka Belitung Islands, on Monday (Oct 29). The wreckage is believed to be submerged at a depth of 30 to 35m underwater.

The plane is believed to have broken up into pieces upon severe impact with the sea surface after it dived at a rapid speed from a height of around 900m.

Data from Flightradar24, a flight tracking system, showed that the plane fell from 4,825 feet in less than 25 seconds, with the velocity reaching 480 kmh.

"The assumption is that it was impossible (for the plane) to stay afloat, which would have happened had there been propulsion (into the water) because of engine pressure," Senior Basarnas official Didi Hamzar said as reported by kompas.com.

Officials have said the discovery of body parts suggested a high-impact crash in water off the coast of Indonesia's Java island.

Some 56 body bags filled with limbs and other remains have so far been recovered, the authorities said on Thursday.

Based on signals from locator beacons attached to the recorders, a 50-strong team of divers was searching a watery square about 18.5 km on a side northeast of the capital, Jakarta, said Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of the National Transportation Safety Committee.

"There is a 70 per cent likelihood that we will find the black boxes," said Mr Soerjanto, whose committee is leading the investigation in a country plagued by aviation mishaps.

"The other 30 per cent will be our prayers," he was quoted as saying by Jakarta Post.

Although the currents in the waters off Tanjung Karawang, West Java - where the plane crashed with 189 people on board on Monday (Oct 29) morning - were not heavy, the team of divers faced some difficulties during the operations, a KNKT official said.

"(Underwater) visibility is very restricted, which is why the process (of finding the black box) is taking quite some time," KNKT accident investigator Ony Suryo Wibowo said on Tuesday.

"The sea water was clear, but when we dove further towards the seabed, it was mud. We moved a little, the water quickly got murky," Mr Sudaryanto, one of divers, told Elshinta radio.

On Tuesday, the divers could work from early in the morning until late in the afternoon because the wind was too strong, Mr Ony said.

Specialised equipment, such as robots, to detect the black box was deployed after nightfall and when the tide was high, he said, reported Jakarta Post.

"But the limited visibility also makes it difficult for the equipment to detect anything," Mr Ony added.

West Java Police chief Inspector General Agung Budi Maryoto said the muddy waters made it hard for divers to see things clearly.

"The weather is clear and the waves are calm, however, the mud makes things a little bit difficult," Mr Agung said as quoted by kompas.com.

While all 189 people on board are feared dead, at least one family received some closure after police confirmed the identity of a 24-year-old passenger from her remains.

Police Brigadier-General Hudi Suryanto said they managed to match her fingerprints to government records, identifying her as Indonesian civil servant Jannatun Cintya Dewi.

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