Sobbing relatives bury Indonesia Sriwijaya Air plane crash victim

Sobbing relatives bury Indonesia Sriwijaya Air plane crash victim

The funeral of Okky Bisma, the first confirmed victim of the aviation disaster
The funeral of Okky Bisma, the first confirmed victim of the aviation disaster. (Photo: AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

JAKARTA: Sobbing friends and relatives filed into a Jakarta cemetery on Thursday (Jan 14) to bury the remains of a flight attendant from the crashed Indonesian passenger jet, as divers restarted their hunt for its second black box.

Okky Bisma, 29, was the first confirmed victim of Saturday's disaster after fingerprints from his retrieved hand were matched to those on a government identity database.

There were 62 crew members and passengers, including 10 children, on the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 when it plunged about 30,000m in less than a minute before slamming into the Java Sea just after take-off from Jakarta.

At least five other victims have since been identified, as forensic examiners sort through mangled human remains retrieved from the wreckage-littered seabed in the hope of matching DNA with relatives.

At the cemetery, Bisma's wife Aldha Refa clutched a portrait of her husband and sprinkled flower petals on a mound of dirt where his coffin was buried.

"Rest in peace up there darling and wait for me ... in heaven," Refa, also a flight attendant, wrote in a tribute posted on social media this week.

"Thank you for being the perfect husband when you were on earth."

Funeral traditions in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, call for a quick burial of the dead.

But the identification process could take weeks or more, prolonging the agony for some distraught families.

Bisma's family gave up hope of recovering more remains and decided instead to bury what divers had retrieved, said his father Supeno Hendy Kiswanto.

"Today we're still mourning, but we surrender to Allah for what has happened," Kiswanto told the ceremony.

"Death is in the hands of God ... Let's pray Allah grants him a place in heaven."

FRESH HUNT

Nearly 270 divers were on hand on Thursday as authorities restarted the underwater hunt, which was called off a day earlier due to bad weather and rough seas.

"The main focus (today) will be the diving," Rasman MS, the search-and-rescue agency's operations director, said earlier Thursday.

"We're not just looking for one thing - victims, the cockpit voice recorder and debris are all priorities."

Investigators said they had extracted and cleaned a memory module from a retrieved flight data recorder and hope to be able to read critical details on the device soon, with the focus now on finding the plane's cockpit voice recorder.

Black box data includes the speed, altitude and direction of the plane as well as flight crew conversations, and helps explain nearly 90 per cent of all crashes, according to aviation experts.

READ: Sriwijaya Air crash places Indonesia's aviation safety under fresh spotlight

So far authorities have been unable to explain why the 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after take-off, bound for Pontianak city on Borneo island, a 90-minute flight away.

It had experienced pilots at the controls, and preliminary evidence showed that the crew did not declare an emergency or report technical problems as it sharply deviated from its planned course just before the crash, authorities said.

Bad weather, pilot error, poor maintenance and mechanical failure were among possible factors, aviation analysts said.

As the global pandemic hammered demand for air travel, the jet - previously flown by US-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines - had been parked in a hangar for about nine months before it was put back into service in December after being declared airworthy, according to the transport ministry.

Since then, it had flown more than 130 times before the accident, flight tracking data showed.

The crash probe was likely to take months, but a preliminary report was expected in 30 days.

Source: AFP/vc

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