Indonesian divers have located parts of the wreckage of a Boeing 737-500 at a depth of 23 metres in the Java Sea, a day after the aircraft with 62 people onboard crashed shortly after take-off from Jakarta.
“We received reports from the diver team that the visibility in the water is good and clear, allowing the discovery of some parts of the plane,” Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said in a statement on Sunday.
“We are sure that is the point where the plane crashed.”
He said the objects included broken pieces of fuselage with aircraft registration parts.
Earlier, rescuers pulled out body parts, pieces of clothing and scraps of metal from the surface.
“Hopefully until this afternoon the current conditions and the view under the sea are still good so that we can continue the search,” he said.
The Boeing 737-500 plane with 62 people onboard crashed shortly after take-off from Jakarta.
Sonar equipment located the wreckage of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 which appears to have suddenly plunged 3000m in less than a minute, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24.com.
Witnesses saw the airliner nose dive into the ocean just four minutes after it took off in rainy weather from Soekarno-Hatta airport.
Local fisherman Solihin, 22, from Lancang Island, said he and two other fishermen heard an explosion about 30 metres from them.
“We thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water after the explosion,” he said.
“It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. So it is difficult to see around clearly.
“But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat.”
The Boeing 737-500 disappeared from radar after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 29,000 feet (9000m), Indonesia’s transport minister Budi Karya Sumadi said.
“These pieces were found by the SAR team between Lancang Island and Laki Island,” National Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito said in a statement.
Mr Sumadi told reporters authorities now believe “the possible location of the crash site” is in relatively shallow water no more than 30 metres deep, which should aid the recovery of further bodies and the jetliner’s black box.
“We have immediately deployed our divers from the navy’s elite unit to determine the finding to evacuate the victims,” Marshal Tjahjanto said.
There were 62 people on board, including seven children and three babies. Little so far is known of what made the Boeing jet fall from the sky.
Mr Sumadi said Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour by bad weather before it took off at 2.36pm and disappeared from radar four minutes later
Authorities have established two crisis centres, one at the airport and one at the port where families have gathered to wait for news of loved ones.
On social media, people began circulating the flight manifesto with photos and videos of those who were listed as passengers.
One heartbreaking video shows a woman with her children waving goodbye while walking through the airport.
Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane, which was over 25 years old and previously used by airlines in the United States, was airworthy.
He told reporters on Saturday it had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.
“Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy,” Mr Jauwena told a news conference. He said it was solely bad weather that delayed the plane’s take-off, not because of any damage.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, ageing infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.
In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
The plane involved in Saturday’s incident did not have the automated flight-control system that played a role in the Lion Air crash and another crash of a 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia five months later, leading to the grounding of the MAX 8 for 20 months.
The United States banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, but reversed the decision in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards.
The European Union imposed similar bans, lifting them in June 2018.
“We are aware of media reports from Jakarta regarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182,” Boeing said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families.
“We are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support them during this difficult time.”