JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian divers pulled out the cockpit voice recorder from the sunken wreckage of an AirAsia passenger jet on Tuesday, a key step towards determining the cause of the crash that killed all 162 people aboard.
Indonesia AirAsia’s Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control in bad weather on Dec 28, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore.
The cockpit voice recorder, which retains the last two hours of conversation between the pilots and with air traffic controllers, was found close to where the flight data recorder was recovered from the bottom of the Java Sea on Monday.
“Today we have completed searching for the main things that we have been looking for,” Rear Admiral Widodo, the commander of the navy’s western fleet, told reporters after handing over the cockpit voice recorder to investigators.
“But the team will still try to find the body of the plane in case there are still bodies inside.”
Together the black boxes, which are actually orange, contain a wealth of data that will be crucial for investigators piecing together the sequence of events that led to the Airbus A320-200 plunging into the sea.
The cockpit voice recorder is expected to be sent to the capital, Jakarta, for analysis.
Investigators may need up to a month to get a complete reading of the data.
The AirAsia group’s first fatal accident took place more than two weeks ago, but wind, high waves and strong currents have slowed efforts to recover bodies and wreckage from the shallow waters off Borneo island.
Dozens of Indonesian navy divers took advantage of calmer weather this week to retrieve the black boxes and now hope to find the fuselage of the Airbus.
Forty-eight bodies have been plucked from the Java Sea and brought to Surabaya for identification. Searchers believe more bodies will be found in the plane’s fuselage.
Government officials sought to reassure victims’ families that divers would continue to search for bodies.
“Our main task is to find the victims,” Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters in Jakarta before heading to Surabaya to meet families of the victims.
“Even if both (black boxes) are found, it doesn’t mean that our operation is over.”
Relatives of the victims urged authorities to continue to search for the remains of their loved ones.
“Even if the search has to last for a month, we are still hoping to find them,” said Lioni, who lost four family members in the plane crash. “If they can find even one (of my family members), we would feel a little bit relieved.”