Day 3: Missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501: Remains found in Java Sea

AirAsia said the remains were found in the Karimata Strait, south west of Pangkalan Bun in the Borneo province of Central Kalimantan

Jakarta: Rescue crews scouring the waters off Indonesia said yesterday that they found dozens of bodies and spotted wreckage that belongs to AirAsia QZ8501, the jetliner that went missing Sunday, carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members. At last count, the Indonesian Navy said, the number of bodies recovered was 40.

Indonesian Air Force personnel carry airplane parts recovered from the water near the site where Flight 8501 disappeared, at the airbase in Pangkalan Bun, Borneo.
Indonesian Air Force personnel carry airplane parts recovered from the water near the site where Flight 8501 disappeared, at the airbase in Pangkalan Bun, Borneo. Pics/AP

Djoko Murjatmodjo, a senior official with Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry, confirmed that the debris was from Flight 8501, which was carrying 162 people when it disappeared. “We’ve confirmed the wreckage was from the body of the plane,” he said Tuesday in Jakarta, the capital.

In this image taken from a video released by TV One, a rescuer is lowered on rope from a hovering helicopter near a bloated body in Java Sea waters
In this image taken from a video released by TV One, a rescuer is lowered on rope from a hovering helicopter near a bloated body in Java Sea waters

"As grisly images of floating bodies were broadcast on television screens where the families were gathered, relatives sobbed and buried their heads in their hands," a news channel reported. "Some collapsed and required medical treatment."

The bodies and debris were found in the Karimata Strait off the coast of Central Kalimantan, Borneo. The first sightings were about 66 miles southeast of the last known position of the plane, or, about 160 kilometres from land and 10 kilometres from the plane’s last known co-ordinates.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and the head of AirAsia were headed to Surabaya, Indonesia, to meet relatives. President Widodo told media he had instructed all search teams to focus on finding the passengers and crew.

Members of search teams told the Indonesian news media that they had spotted what appeared to be suitcases, life vests and aircraft debris. Indonesian television showed a rescuer descending from a helicopter toward a bloated corpse floating in the sea. This visual, of a half-naked body of a man whose shirt partially covered his head, sent a spasm of pain through family members watching together in a waiting room at the Surabaya airport.

Many screamed and wailed uncontrollably, breaking down into tears while they held each other. One middle-aged man collapsed and had to be carried out on a stretcher.

Search teams also spotted what appeared to be a larger piece of the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200, which was operated by the Indonesian affiliate of AirAsia.

Tumultous search
Indonesian meteorologists described recovery efforts as a race against time because foul weather — heavy rains, choppy seas and higher winds — was predicted from Friday onward in the search area.

A serviceman of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) onboard a C-130 aircraft looks out of a window during the search and locate (SAL) operation over the Java sea.
A serviceman of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) onboard a C-130 aircraft looks out of a window during the search and locate (SAL) operation over the Java sea. Pic/AFP

“The area we are searching is huge,” Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, said in a briefing. The total search area, including parts of Borneo and smaller islands in the Java Sea, was around 60,000 square miles, the authorities said.

A United States warship had been dispatched to join the search for the missing jet, and Soelistyo said the Indonesian government had also accepted offers from South Korea and China to help in the search.

The Java Sea, which separates the islands of Borneo and Java, is relatively shallow — around 160 feet at its deepest point — but monsoon conditions were clouding the waters, rescuers said.

1,55,400sq km The total search area, including parts of Borneo and smaller islands in the Java Sea

Aboard QZ8501

The flight was carrying 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, as well as a crew of seven, including two pilots. Here is how they break down by nationality:
155 Indonesians: One was the pilot, Iriyanto; he had 20,537 hours’ flying experience, including 6,100 with AirAsia
3 South Koreans: They were from a family of Christian missionaries from
a fishing village
1 Briton: Choi Chi-man, a British businessman based in Hong Kong; he was reportedly traveling with his two-year-old daughter Zoe, whose nationality was not immediately clear
1 Frenchman: Flight’s copilot was Rémi Emmanuel Plesel from France
1 Malaysian
1 Singaporean

Disaster year for Malaysian aviation
Malaysians have been confronted by many unanswered questions this year about a string of aviation disasters:
>> The disappearance of Flight 370 with 239 people on board, a mystery that persists to the day
>> The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine, which killed all 298 passengers and crew
>> And now, the recent disappearance of AirAsia Flight 8501 as it flew toward Singapore from Surabaya in Indonesia

Meanwhile... an AirAsia jet overshoots runway
An AirAsia jet overshot the runway after landing at the Kalibo International Airport in the Philippines’ Aklan province Tuesday evening. The plane from Manila to Kalibo was carrying an undisclosed number of passengers, according to the initial report of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines at Kalibo (CAAP-Kalibo). “The passengers were immediately transported into a nearby hotel. They were all safe,” Xinhua news agency quoted Cynthia Asperas, the CAAP-Kalibo chief, as saying. An investigation is underway into the incident.

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