Sobbing relatives bury Indonesian plane crash victim

Aldha Refa, the wife of Okky Bisma, a flight attendant and one of the 62 people aboard the ill-fated Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182, holds his photo while surrounded by family and friends during his funeral in Jakarta on Jan. 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Sobbing relatives bury Indonesian plane crash victim

  • Funeral traditions in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, call for a quick burial of the dead
  • Bad weather, pilot error, poor maintenance and mechanical failure were among possible factors

JAKARTA: Sobbing friends and relatives filed into a Jakarta cemetery Thursday 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 3,000 meters 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.
“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.
“Thank you for being the perfect husband when you were on earth.”
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 for what has happened,” Kiswanto told the ceremony.
“Death is in the hands of God... Let’s pray Allah grants him a place in heaven.”
Nearly 270 divers were on hand Thursday 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,” Rasman MS, the search-and-rescue agency’s operations director, said earlier Thursday.
“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 percent 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.
Bad weather, pilot error, poor maintenance and mechanical failure were among possible factors, aviation analysts said.
As the global pandemic hammered demand for air travel, the jet – previously flown by US-based Continental Airlines and United Airlines – had been parked in a hangar for about nine months before it was put back into service in December after being declared airworthy, according to the transport ministry.
Since then, it had flown more than 130 times before the accident, flight tracking data showed.
The crash probe was likely to take months, but a preliminary report was expected in 30 days.


Philippines sees ‘close and friendly’ ties with Biden administration

Updated 40 min 52 sec ago

Philippines sees ‘close and friendly’ ties with Biden administration

  • Ties have been tested since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016
  • Philippine political analysts expect the Biden administration to be more vocal than its predecessor

MANILA: The Philippines will maintain “close and friendly” relations with the United States under President-elect Joe Biden, a top Philippine official said on Wednesday, amid a period of strain in their decades-old alliance.
“We congratulate again the incoming president and we look forward to having close and friendly relations with the Biden administration,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told CNN Philippines ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
Ties have been tested since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016 and embarked on months of expletive-laden tirades against the United States and threatened repeatedly to scrap their bilateral military agreements.
Duterte has sought warmer ties with China and Russia, and took particular aim at former counterpart Barack Obama, to whom Biden was vice president. He once said he would not visit the United States, calling it a “lousy” country.
Though Duterte has spoken positively about US President Donald Trump, he has remained critical of American foreign policy.
Philippine political analysts expect the Biden administration to be more vocal than its predecessor about human rights issues in the Philippines, including Duterte’s signature war on drugs, during which thousands of people have been killed.