Families and friends of the passengers on Sriwijaya Air flight SJ 182 which crashed into the Java Sea soon after takeoff on Saturday have spoken about the deadly incident, saying they still have hope despite the plane’s flight recorders, which record cockpit voice and flight data, being located.
Five members of Yudi Qurdani’s family were among the 62 people on board the plane – according to the flight’s manifest – which lost contact with air traffic control just four minutes after taking off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta.
The plane’s destination was Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island, about 740km (460 miles) away.
Qurdani’s uncle Toni Ismail, aunt Rahmawati, and cousin Ratih Windania were flying back to Pontianak from a family holiday in Bandung in Java, along with Ratih’s daughter, four-year-old Yumna Fani Syatuzahr. Qurdani’s eight-year-old nephew Athar Rizki Riawan was also travelling with them, although his parents had stayed back in Pontianak.
They were not even supposed to be on the plane.
“But the night before, the airline told us that the flight had been changed to 1:30pm and that it would be a Sriwijaya Air plane. They just did what they were told and went to the airport in the afternoon.”
The family suspects that NAM Air, which is a subsidiary of Sriwijaya Air, transferred the passengers to the later flight due to low ticket sales.
The merged flights also meant that the Sriwijaya Air plane was carrying six extra crew from the cancelled NAM Air flight, including Captain Didik Gunardi, First Officer Fadly Satrianto and four cabin crew.
On Sunday, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) released photographs of officials recovering debris and other items from the suspected crash site, including a child’s pink T-shirt, which Qurdani believes belonged to Yumna.
“She was not wearing it when she left, but her mother had packed it in her suitcase. She wore it often, so we recognised it at once when we saw it on TV. We are 80 percent sure that it is her T-shirt,” he said.
Before she boarded the plane to Pontianak, Yumna’s mother, Windania, posted a series of Instagram stories of the family walking through the airport, one of which was captioned: “Bye bye all my family … We’re going home ya.”
The posts have since gone viral, with members of the public leaving messages of condolence.
Qurdani, speaking to Al Jazeera from Kramat Jati Police Hospital in Jakarta where the family has gathered to wait for news and assist with the identification process, said Athar’s parents have already given DNA samples in Pontianak, and Ismail and Rahmawati’s family have given samples in Jakarta.
“We also saw on TV that they have found the black boxes and we just hope there are survivors. We will continue to hope and ask for help from God that they are alive,” he said.
“But we are also preparing ourselves for anything, even the worst. We hope we can handle whatever is coming.”