News World Aviation authorities on mission to retrieve black boxes of Boeing 737
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Aviation authorities on mission to retrieve black boxes of Boeing 737

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A newly married couple, a pregnant mother and a family of five are confirmed to have been among 62 people on the Sriwijaya Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off.

Their families are anxiously awaiting answers.

Indonesian aviation authorities have confirmed they located the two black boxes from the Boeing 737-500, which plunged into a steep dive after losing contact with air-traffic controllers.

“Hopefully, we can retrieve them soon,” said military chief Hadi Tjahjanto, without giving an estimated time frame.

Human body parts and suspected pieces of the plane have been retrieved, offering no hope of finding any survivors.

“We’re in grief, still praying for the best,” said Ferza Mahardhika, whose uncle piloted the passenger jet, which disappeared from radars four minutes into its journey to Pontianak in West Kalimantan.

On Saturday, Captain Afwan, 54, had rushed out of the house after complaining that “his shirt hadn’t been ironed, when usually he is really neat”, his nephew told the BBC.

Mr Mahardhika said the father-of-three had also apologised to his children for having to leave them again.

“He was a very good man. He often gave advice, wise advice. He was a prominent figure in his neighbourhood and was well-known for his kindness,” Mr Mahardhika told the BBC.

Captain Afwan, who became a commercial pilot in 1987, had used an image of a Superhero for his WhatsApp profile picture.

The translated version of the caption read: “It doesn’t matter how high you fly, you will never reach heaven if you don’t pray.”

Police have asked families to provide information such as dental records and DNA samples to help identify bodies.

The plane had 12 crew and 50 passengers on board, all Indonesians and including seven children and three babies.

The recently married Agus Minarni and Muhammad Nur Kholifatul Amin, who had travelled to Jakarta to attend the funeral of Amin’s father, had scheduled to return on January 5 on a different carrier.

But upon arriving at the airport, the couple were told they had to take a coronavirus test. This delayed boarding by two days, forcing them to rebook their flight home on another carrier, Sriwijaya Air.

Yudiansyah Yunus told CNN that the loss of his sister, Ms Minarni, has left a huge hole in the family and urged for “all involved stakeholders, the airline and the government” to take the investigation seriously.

Ratih Windania, who was four months’ pregnant, had also been on the Sriwijaya Air jet with her two-year-old daughter Yumna, eight-year-old nephew Athar Rizki Riawan, uncle Tony Islmail and aunt Rachmawati.

Just moments before takeoff, Ms Windania had posted a cheerful photo of herself to Instagram.

She is seen seated next to her smiling daughter and nephew.

Also on the aircraft was 26-year-old Rizki Wahyudi, his 26-year-old wife Indah Halimah Putri, their 7-month-old son and Ms Wahyudi’s mother and cousin.

President Joko Widodo, speaking at the palace in Bogor, expressed “deep condolences” over the disaster and urged the public to pray the missing people could be found.

A crisis centre was set up for families at Jakarta’s main airport.

It is the first major air crash in Indonesia since 189 passengers and crew were killed in 2018 when a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max in 2018 also plunged into the Java Sea soon after takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Even before the latest crash, more people had died in air crashes in Indonesia than in any other country over the past decade, according to Aviation Safety Network’s database.