At least 40 bodies, debris found in search for missing AirAsia plane
At least 40 bodies have been found in the area where AirAsia Flight 8501 last made contact with air traffic controllers, along with debris from the plane.
The bodies were found in the Java Sea about six miles from the plane’s last known point of contact. The plane disappeared Sunday with 162 people on board traveling from Surbaya, Indonesia to Singapore.
The bodies were were not wearing life jackets, according to Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Director, SB Supriyadi.
Rescue workers were shown on local TV being lowered on ropes from a hovering helicopter to retrieve bodies. Efforts were hindered by 6-foot waves and strong winds, Supriyadi said, adding that several bodies were later picked up by a navy ship.
“The warship Bung Tomo has retrieved 40 bodies and the number is growing. They are very busy now,” a navy spokesman added.
Sky News also reports that the “shadow” of a jet has been spotted on the seabed.
Crews in dozens of planes, helicopters and ships looking for the aircraft discovered what appeared to be a life jacket and an emergency exit door, according to The Associated Press. Part of the plane’s interior, including an oxygen tank, was brought to the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun, along with a bright blue plastic suitcase that appeared to be in perfect condition.
Family members watched the graphic details unfold on local television. Indonesian television showed a half-naked bloated body bobbing in the sea. Many screamed and another man fainted and was rushed from the room on a stretcher.
Tony Fernandes, the CEO of AirAsia, offered his condolences in a message on his Twitter account.
My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences … http://t.co/OJGobL93cR
— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 30, 2014
Pilots of the jet had been worried about the weather on Sunday and sought permission to climb above threatening clouds, but were denied due to heavy air traffic. Minutes later, the jet was gone from the radar without issuing a distress signal.
The suspected crash caps an astonishingly tragic year for air travel in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia in particular. Malaysia-based AirAsia’s loss comes on top of the still-unsolved disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March with 239 people aboard, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine, which killed all 298 passengers and crew.
Nearly all the passengers and crew are Indonesians, who are frequent visitors to Singapore, particularly on holidays.
Ifan Joko, 54, said that despite the tragic news he is still hoping for a miracle. His brother, Charlie Gunawan, along with his wife, their three children and two other family members, were traveling to Singapore on the plane to ring in the New Year.
“I know the plane has crashed, but I cannot believe my brother and his family are dead,” he said, wiping a tear. “… We still pray they are alive.”
Several countries are helping Indonesia retrieve the wreckage and the passengers.
The United States on Tuesday announced it was sending the USS Sampson destroyer, joining at least 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters in the search for the jet, said Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo.
A Chinese frigate was also on the way, while Singapore said it was sending two underwater beacon detectors to try to detect pings from the plane’s all-important cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Malaysia, Australia and Thailand also are involved in the search.