Jakarta/Singapore: Doomed AirAsia jet's fuselage was found today raising hopes of retrieving the remaining bodies of the 162 people killed in the tragedy, as investigators downloaded the contents of black box recorders and were likely to crack the crash's mystery soon.
The main fuselage of the crashed AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was found by a Singaporean Navy vessel. Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said he hoped that locating the main wreckage of the Airbus A320-200 could help bring "some form of closure" to families of victims.
"Chief of Navy (Singapore) RADM Lai Chung Han just informed me that one of Singapore Armed Forces ships, the MV Swift Rescue, has located the fuselage of the AirAsia plane in the Java Sea," Ng said on Facebook. The words "now" and "everyone" are visible on the photos, apparently from AirAsia's motto "Now Everyone Can Fly" painted on the plane's exterior.
"Images taken by the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) show part of the wing and words on the fuselage. We have informed Basarnas (The Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency, who can now begin recovery operations," he said. "The accident is a tragic event resulting in the loss of many lives. I hope that with the fuselage located, some form of closure can come to the families of the victims to ease their grief," Singapore's Defence Minister added.
Finding the fuselage is seen as crucial as most of the victims are believed to be still trapped inside with just 48 bodies recovered so far in the ardous search.
AirAsia said 36 of the bodies recovered from the sea have been identified, while 12 are still being identified. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, retrieved from the bottom of the sea this week, were being analysed by the experts.
Investigators say they have successfully downloaded the contents of both devices. But an Indonesian official, however, cautioned that interpreting the information requires much more time. After the download, investigators should have "a pretty good idea within a couple of days" of what happened aboard the plane, Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general of the US Department of Transportation, said.
Mardjono Siswosuwarno, a senior official at Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, said he expected a preliminary report to be released within a month of the crash, which happened December 28. But it is unclear how much information the initial document will contain beyond what is already been made public.
The final report containing investigators' full conclusions will take months, Mardjono said. Indonesia's National Transport Safety Committee is leading the multinational search and probe mission, helped by experts from countries including France and the US.
The black box recorders, which are actually orange, are expected to shed new light on the mysterious crash that claimed all 162 lives on board the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501, en route from Indonesia's Surabaya city to Singapore.
Indonesia's National Transport Safety Committee head Tatang Kurniadi last night said, "100 per cent of the things we need are now in our hands" to investigate the accident.
Basarnas chief Marshal Bambang Soelistyo has assured the families of those on the jet that the main SAR operation is still on-going and their main priority is to search and recover the passengers despite weather and underwater current challenges.
Bad weather and strong undersea currents has slowed down the SAR operations since the jet crashed in the Java Sea.