Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The search and rescue efforts with regard to the Sukhoi Superjet 100 victims` remains and the ill-fated aircraft`s wreckage were declared to be completed, after the finding of the plane`s flight data recorder (FDR) on May 30 and the transferring of the victims` remains to their families on May 23, 2012.

"As we have found the FDR, I declare that the evacuation process is completed. Concerning the plane`s debris, I leave it to the Sukhoi company," the chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), Vice Marshal Daryatmo, stated at Halim Perdanakusuma air force base, East Jakarta, on May 31, 2012.

The Russian-made SSJ-100 crashed into Mount Salak, between Sukabumi and Bogor districts, West Java, on May 9, 2012, during a demonstration flight. All the 45 passengers and crew members on board the plane were killed in the accident.

The terrain of the crash site was extremely difficult. The plane had hit a steep cliff and its wreckage and the victims` remains were scattered across a deep ravine of Mount Salak.

After painstaking search for the victims` remains and reconstruction of their body parts, Transportation Minister EE Mangindaan led a ceremony to symbolically hand over the victims` remains to the respective families at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in Jakarta, two weeks after the air crash.

The minister, on behalf of the Indonesian government, expressed his deepest condolences to the victims` families.

Mangindaan also conveyed his appreciation to everyone, including the military, students, nature lovers and locals, who helped find and recover the victims.

He said the evacuation of the crash victims on the slopes of Mount Salak took some time because the location was very difficult to reach and the terrain had an inclination of about 85 degrees, not to mention the adverse weather conditions.

"We also wish to express our appreciation to the identification team for their ward work in obtaining data of the victims` fingerprints, DNA, teeth, and other relevant information," Mangindaan added.

However, several days later, the public was rather surprised when 13 residents of Cicurug sub-district, Sukabumi district, claimed to have found more remains and several identity cards of the SSJ-100 victims at the area around the crash scene.

"The villagers, who are members of the Non-Timber Forest Product Society (AMPHHBKI`s Sukabumi chapter), discovered an intact body of a Caucasian man, believed to be a Russian crew member, several body parts, as well as several business cards, ID cards (KTP), and flight ID cards," AMPHHBKI Sukabumi branch chairman Junaidi Abdullah told ANTARA on May 28.

"We found the remains during our week-long stay near the location of the air crash in Mount Salak, to be exact, at about 500-700 meters from the crash site," he said.

On the first day of their stay (May 20), the group spotted body parts such as fingers and hands around the location, and several days later, they discovered an intact human body and several identity cards.

The villagers did not evacuate the remains, but they collected the ID cards, because they went down to the ravine not for evacuation, but as part of their routine activities.

After receiving the news from the local villagers, a joint SAR team was dispatched to the crash site for further evacuation.

"The search and evacuation of the remains of the Sukhoi victims is led by Sukabumi`s district military command 0607, Captain Sanusi, who will be assisted by 29 personnel," the Commander of the military resorts, Colonel AM Putranto, told reporters on May 29.

The SAR team - comprising personnel from Indonesia`s national defense forces, the national police, the mountain and jungle explorer association, as well as several residents - first focused on the location where some residents of Cicurug sub-district found the body parts of the victims.

Putranto explained the remains and belongings might have been washed away by a mudslide to another location, thanks to the downpour that occurred when the national SAR team ceased its operations.

The team found more body parts and carried those in two body bags to Keramat Jati Police Hospital for identification by Indonesia's Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team.

"We have received two body bags containing more remains for identification," Executive Director of DVI Indonesia Senior Commissioner Anton Castilani said on May 30.

He explained that since the body parts were almost decomposed, it would take a long time to identify them.

The DVI team had earlier completed the identification process of the victims` body parts, which had arrived in 30 body bags.

After the finding of more body parts, local residents of Cijeruk found the FDR at the crash site on Mount Salak, on May 30, 2012. The plane`s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was found on May 15, 2012. The FDR and CDR, which constitute the plane`s black box , are important because they may hold vital clues about what really happened on the afternoon of May 9, 2012.

Daryatmo previously said although the joint Indonesian and Russian team had officially stopped the search operation on May 21, a small team of the agency was still looking for the FDR.

"The radius of the search has been expanded at the crash site. The FDR is small, weighing only around 4.5 kg. It might be somewhere inside the bushes. Although the terrain is very difficult, we don`t give up," Daryatmo said at a hearing in the parliament.

When the nine Cijeruk residents found the FDR, the device was buried in a location around 20 meters away from the plane`s tail. They later handed it over to the joint SAR team, which was led by Colonel AM Putranto of the Suryakencana Military Command 061. The Basarnas chief handed over the FDR to the head of the National Committee for Transportation Safety (KNKT), Tatang Kurniadi.

Tatang said KNKT already had the device needed to read the FDR`s data, which would include information about the plane`s speed and altitude. It would take around three to four hours to open the FDR, while its data analysis process would require around 20 hours, he added.

Indonesia`s House of Representatives (DPR RI`s Commission V), summoned on May 28, among others, Minister of Transportation EE Mangindaan, the Basarnas chief, the KNKT chief, the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), PT Angkasa Pura II, and PT Trimarga Rekatama to a meeting regarding the air accident.

Minister Mangindaan said Sukhoi`s demonstration flight was conducted after the necessary permits were obtained, which include Diplomatic Clearance from the Foreign Affairs Ministry (on April 20, 2012), the Security Clearance from the National Defense Forces (TNI), and the Flight Clearance from the Air Transportation Directorate General (on May 7, 2012) with regard to its route (Saigon-Halim Perdana Kusuma-Vientiane).

The Commission demanded faster results from the investigation of the accident, in which 35 Indonesians, eight Russians, one Frenchman and an American were killed.

Commission Chairman Yasti Soepredjo Mokoagow and Deputy Chairman Mulyadi urged the KNKT chief to announce the results of the investigation at a press conference within the next six months.

In his response, Tatang explained the accident report could not be done in a rush because the KNKT`s credibility was at stake. He asked the public to be patient and wait for the investigation to be completed.

The Parliament has planned to set up a working group to investigate into the cause of the air crash. The group will also monitor the insurance compensation payment for the victims` families and work towards improved regulations in the aviation industry in order to minimize accidents. (*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2012