AirAsia tragedy: bodies, debris found in Java Sea

INDONESIA-AIRPLANE_2262098gRelatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight QZ 8501 react upon seeing the news on television about the findings of bodies on the waters near the site where the jetliner disappeared, at the crisis centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, on Tuesday.

Signs of the jet found in shallow waters, about 16 km from its last-known coordinates

After three days of intense search, debris of the missing AirAsia aircraft carrying 162 people was found on Tuesday in the Java Sea off Indonesia, but only three bodies have been retrieved so far as mystery remained over the cause of the crash.

Only three bodies have been retrieved and not 40 as previously stated by naval officials, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said.

The bodies were spotted along with debris floating in the Java Sea off the Indonesian part of Borneo, close to the area where contact was lost with the aircraft on Sunday

Family members of those aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 collapsed in agony on Tuesday as images of debris and a bloated body flashed across Indonesian television screens, proof that the plane crashed into the sea two days earlier with 162 people on board.

The low-cost carrier vanished on Sunday halfway through a two-hour flight between Surabaya, Indonesia and Singapore after encountering storm clouds, sparking an international hunt with dozens of planes, ships and helicopters.

On the third day of searching, the first signs of the jet were found in shallow, aqua waters only about 16 km from the plane’s last known coordinates — A life jacket, an emergency exit door. Parts of the jetliner’s interior, including an oxygen tank, were brought to the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun. Another find included a bright blue plastic suitcase, completely unscratched.

First Adm. Sigit Setiayanta, Naval Aviation Center commander at Surabaya Air Force base, told reporters six corpses were spotted about 160 km from Borneo island.

Rescue workers were lowered on ropes from a hovering helicopter to retrieve bodies. Efforts were hindered by 2 metre waves and strong winds, National Search and Rescue Director SB Supriyadi said, but several victims were later picked up by a navy ship.

Supriyadi had been on the aircraft and saw what appeared to be more wreckage under the water, which was clear and a relatively shallow 20 to 30 metres. Television coverage of the discovery sent a spasm of pain through the room at the Surabaya airport where relatives were waiting for news. It is not clear what brought the plane down. The last communication indicated the pilots were worried about bad weather. They sought permission to climb above threatening clouds, but were denied due to heavy air traffic. Four minutes later, the jet disappeared from the radar without issuing a distress signal.

The plane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders, or black boxes, have yet to be recovered. Scott Hamilton, managing director of aviation consultancy Leeham Co., said in a post on his website that autopsies may provide some of the earliest clues about what happened.

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