Bod­ies, de­bris found in AirAsia crash

Fam­i­lies mourn­ing amid mixed mes­sages on num­ber of bod­ies

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY BAYU ISMOYO

The hunt for a miss­ing AirAsia pas­sen­ger plane ap­peared at an end Tues­day as wreck­age and bod­ies were spot­ted at sea off In­done­sia, prompt­ing raw scenes of emo­tion from sob­bing rel­a­tives of the 162 peo­ple aboard.

The Air­bus A320-200 dis­ap­peared en route from In­done­sia’s sec­ond largest city Surabaya to Sin­ga­pore dur­ing a storm early Sun­day.

All in­di­ca­tions now are that it crashed in the Java Sea south­west of the is­land of Bor­neo, with de­bris in­clud­ing an exit door, a blue suit­case and bod­ies re­trieved from the area.

An air force plane saw a “shadow” on the seabed be­lieved to be that of the miss­ing Flight QZ8501, Na­tional Search and Res­cue Agency chief Bam­bang Soelistyo told a news con­fer­ence in Jakarta.

Rel­a­tives of the miss­ing hugged each other and burst into tears in Surabaya as they watched footage of one body float­ing in the sea on a tele­vi­sion feed of Soelistyo’s press con­fer­ence.

Later Tues­day the search chief said just three bod­ies had been re­cov­ered so far, after another of­fi­cial said 40 had been found.

Navy spokesman Mana­han Si­morangkir told AFP ear­lier that ac­cord­ing to naval ra­dio a war­ship had re­cov­ered more than 40 bod­ies from the sea. But he later said that re­port was a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion by his staff.

‘I can­not bring him

back to life’

AirAsia’s flam­boy­ant chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Fer­nan­des ex­pressed his grief over the first fa­tal in­ci­dent to hit the re­gion’s big­gest bud­get air­line.

“My heart is filled with sad­ness for all the fam­i­lies in­volved in QZ 8501,” Fer­nan­des said on Twit­ter, be­fore rush­ing to Surabaya.

Ini­tial news of the de­bris dimmed the faint hopes of rel­a­tives.

“If that news is true, what can I do? I can­not bring him back to life,” said Dwi­janto, 60, whose son was on the plane along with five col­leagues.

“My heart will be to­tally crushed if it’s true. I will lose a son,” he said.

Search chief Soelistyo said all ef­forts were now be­ing con­cen­trated on the lo­ca­tion where the “shadow” and de­bris had been found, around 160 kilo­me­ters ( 100 miles) south­west of the town of Pangkalan Bun in Cen­tral Kal­i­man­tan on Bor­neo is­land.

The town has the near­est airstrip and is not far from the plane’s last known po­si­tion.

Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo praised the search teams and said three war­ships were head­ing lo­ca­tion.

“To­mor­row there will be a mas­sive search by the ships and he­li­copters,” he said after fly­ing over the area and vis­it­ing Pangkalan Bun.

“I would like to thank our close friends, the coun­tries who have helped the search from Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia and Aus­tralia,” he said.

“And

for the fam­i­lies

to

the

of the pas­sen­gers and crew, I also feel the loss from this tragedy and we all pray for the fam­i­lies to be given for­ti­tude and strength to face this tragedy,” he said at a brief ap­pear­ance in Surabaya be­tween meet­ing rel­a­tives.

In­done­sian of­fi­cials had al­ready been pre­par­ing rel­a­tives for the worst, with Soelistyo say­ing Mon­day it was likely the plane was at “the bot­tom of the sea,” based on its es­ti­mated po­si­tion.

The air­craft lost con­tact early on Sun­day about 40 min­utes after take­off, after the crew re­quested a change of flight plan due to stormy weather, in the third cri­sis for a Malaysian car­rier this year.

In his last com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the pi­lot said he wanted to avoid a men­ac­ing storm sys­tem. Then all con­tact was lost.

Be­fore take-off the

pi­lot had asked for per­mis­sion to fly at a higher level to avoid the storm but his re­quest was not ap­proved due to heavy traf­fic on the popular route, ac­cord­ing to AirNav, In­done­sia’s flight nav­i­ga­tion ser­vice.

In his fi­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the pi­lot asked to al­ter his course and re­peated his orig­i­nal re­quest to as­cend to avoid the bad weather.

( Left) Com­man­der of 1st In­done­sian Air Force Op­er­a­tional Com­mand Rear Mar­shall Dwi Pu­tranto, right, shows air­plane parts and a suit­case found float­ing on the wa­ter near the site where AirAsia Flight 8501 dis­ap­peared, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the air­base in Pangkalan Bun, Cen­tral Bor­neo on Tues­day.

AFP/AP

(Above) A ser­vice­man of the Repub­lic of Sin­ga­pore Air Force (RSAF) on­board a C-130 air­craft takes part in the search and lo­cate (SAL) op­er­a­tion for miss­ing AirAsia flight QZ8501 over the Java Sea on Tues­day, Dec. 30.

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