Dredging of Musi River begins today

Crash of SilkAir Flight MI 185 ——————————

Round-the-clock search for wreckage and second black box

THE search for the wreckage and second black box from the SilkAir jetliner, which crashed near here on Dec 19, will be stepped up from today, when dredging of the Musi River begins.

The dredging work will be carried out round-the-clock, said First Admiral Rosihan Arsyad, the Indonesian western fleet commander heading the search and recovery operations.

He said yesterday that excavation work would be done over the next five days in an area measuring 60m by 60m, about 200m from the western bank of Musi.

“Most of the plane’s debris is concentrated in this river bed area and some of the wreckage is buried deep in mud,” he said, noting that it was impossible for naval divers to reach.

The two dredgers, one from Singapore which arrived on Tuesday and the other from Indonesia due today, will operate in the area which search teams will divide into three lanes.

First Admiral Rosihan said that each lane, measuring 60m by 20m, would take 1 1/2 days to clear.

The dredgers would speed up search operations, which have so far relied heavily on search ships, sonar equipment and naval divers, who have been hindered by poor visibility underwater and strong currents.

“The dredgers will clean up the area much more quickly and with the wreckage we have collected, help answer why the plane went down,” he said.

Only about 10 per cent of the aircraft has been found so far, including parts from its front, middle and rear body frame, the landing gear and parts of the engine.

The largest parts were found on land.

First Admiral Rosihan said that it would be impossible to find all of the wreckage, and added that it would be “good if we can find 70 per cent”.

He said that land and air operations would scale down considerably once excavation work began. “We know for sure what we want is down in those waters, including the second black box,” he said.

He said search teams were homing in on the cockpit voice recorder of Flight MI 185 and expected to recover it in the next five days.

The second box was probably located within five metres of the spot where the flight data recorder was found last week, but buried much deeper in the mud, he said.

“It is a rough estimate based on the information we have gathered from sonar equipment, underwater operations and the direction in which the plane crashed,” he said. While search teams are confident of recovering the cockpit voice recorder, they are concerned that it could have been damaged by the impact of the high speed crash.

First Admiral Rosihan, a naval pilot by training, noted that unlike the flight data recorder which had a harder casing, the cockpit voice recorder could easily have been damaged in the crash.

“There are still a lot of uncertainties,” he said.

“We will recover the second black box. The question is whether we will find it with all its components intact.”

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