Jakarta: Investigators succeeded in retrieving hours of data from a crashed Lion Air jet's flight recorder as Indonesian authorities on Sunday extended the search at sea for victims and debris.
National Transportation Safety Committee deputy chairman Haryo Satmiko told a news conference that 69 hours of flight data was downloaded from the recorder including its fatal flight.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet crashed just minutes after takeoff from Jakarta on 29 October, killing all 189 people on board in the country's worst airline disaster since 1997.
The flight data recorder was recovered by divers on Thursday in damaged condition and investigators said it required special handling to retrieve its information. The cockpit voice recorder has not been recovered but searchers are focusing on a particular area based on a weak locator signal.
National Search and Rescue Agency chief Muhammad Syaugi said on Sunday the search operation, now in its 7th day and involving hundreds of personnel and dozens of ships, would continue for another three days.
Syaugi paid tribute to a volunteer diver, Syahrul Anto, who died during the search effort on Friday. The family of the 48-year-old refused an autopsy and he was buried Saturday in Surabaya.
More than 100 body bags of human remains had been recovered. Syaugi said the number would continue to increase and remains were also now washing up on land. He said weak signals, potentially from the cockpit voice recorder, were traced to a location but an object hadn't been found yet due to deep seabed mud.
Flight tracking websites show the plane had erratic speed and altitude during its 13 minute flight and a previous flight the day before from Bali to Jakarta. Passengers on the Bali flight reported terrifying descents and in both cases the different cockpit crews requested to return to their departure airport shortly after takeoff. Lion has claimed a technical problem was fixed after the Bali fight.
Syaugi said a considerable amount of aircraft "skin" was found on the seafloor but not a large intact part of its fuselage as he'd indicated was possible Saturday.
He and other top officials including the military chief plan to meet with families on Monday to explain the search operation. The Lion Air crash is the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people died on a Garuda flight near Medan. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing all 162 on board.
Indonesian airlines were barred in 2007 from flying to Europe because of safety concerns, though several were allowed to resume services in the following decade. The ban was completely lifted in June. The U.S. lifted a decadelong ban in 2016. Lion Air is one of Indonesia's youngest airlines but has grown rapidly, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.