Sobbing relatives bury plane crash victim

JAKARTA (AFP) – Sobbing friends and relatives filed into a Jakarta cemetery yesterday 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 and passengers, including 10 children, on the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 when it plunged about 10,000 feet 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.

Aldha Refa, the wife of Okky Bisma, a flight attendant and one of the 62 people aboard Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182, holds his photo while surrounded by family and friends during his funeral in Jakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO: AFP

“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.

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 the Almighty for what has happened,” Kiswanto told the ceremony.

“Let’s pray Allah the Almighty grants him a place in heaven.”

Nearly 270 divers were on hand yesterday 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,” search-and-rescue agency’s Operations Director Rasman MS said earlier yesterday.

“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.

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.