AirAsia officials confirmed today that debris and bodies discovered in the Java Sea are from the missing Flight QZ8501, which lost contact on the morning of December 28 while traveling from Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board.
Here’s what we know so far.
1. Victims Were Holding Hands While Floating in the Water
Items resembling an emergency slide, plane door and other objects were spotted during a aerial search on December 30. Hours later, officials confirmed that the items belonged to the missing aircraft.
Lieutenant Airman Tri Wobowo, the pilot who reportedly first sighted the debris, said that among the wreckage were bodies found holding hands.
“There are seven to eight people. Three [of them] again hold hands,” he said, as reported by the Independent.
Abiut 40 bodies have so far been recovered, but recovery is being hampered by rough seas. Onboard the flight were 155 passengers including 137 adults, 17 children and one infant, plus two pilots, four cabin crew members and an engineer.
AirAsia released this statement:
AIRASIA INDONESIA FLIGHT QZ8501
AS OF 30 DECEMBER 2014 18:00 PM LT (GMT+7)
SURABAYA, 30TH DECEMBER 2014 – AirAsia Indonesia regrets to inform that The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) today confirmed that the debris found earlier today is indeed from QZ8501, the flight that had lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of 28th.
The debris of the aircraft was found in the Karimata Strait around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun. The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC. There were 155 passengers on board, with 137 adults, 17 children and 1 infant. Also on board were 2 pilots, 4 cabin crews and one engineer.
At the present time, search and rescue operations are still in progress and further investigation of the debris found at the location is still underway. AirAsia Indonesia employees have been sent to the site and will be fully cooperating with BASARNAS, National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC), and relevant authorities on the investigation.
Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Indonesia said: “We are sorry to be here today under these tragic circumstances. We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of those on board QZ8501. Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues.”
Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia added: “I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the wellbeing of the family members of those onboard QZ8501.”
AirAsia Indonesia will be inviting family members to Surabaya, where a dedicated team of care providers will be assigned to each family to ensure that all of their needs are met. Counsellors, religious and spiritual personnel have also been invited to the family center to provide any necessary services.
Further information will be released as soon as it becomes available. An emergency call centre has been established and available for families seeking information. Family members of QZ8501, please contact:
Malaysia: +60 3 21795959
Indonesia: +62 2129270811
Singapore: +65 63077688
Korea: 007 98142069940
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of our passengers and colleagues on board QZ8501.
2. Debris Was Found 6 Miles From Where the Plane Lost Contact
3. The Discovery Concludes a Massive Search Effort
The tragic discovery concludes a massive search that covered some 156,000 square kilometers. All rescue efforts are being redirected to the apparent crash site.
My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.
4. Relatives Fainted After Watching Bodies Pulled From the Water
As relatives watch live television of the rescue effort at Juanda International Airport in Subaya, Indonesia, it appears all 155 passengers may have perished in the crash. Indonesian television network TV One has shown bodies bobbing in the sea and rescuers dangling from ropes above.
Some relatives had to be carried away from the airport on stretchers, after collapsing from severe emotional distress. TV One has reportedly apologized for showing the offending images.
Tri Rismaharini, mayor of Surabaya, attempted to console grieving relatives of the victims, according to the BBC, telling one man, “We don’t have a choice. Today this happens to you, tomorrow it may happen to me. Nobody knows. So you have to be strong. Our lives belong to God.”
5. There Are Still Questions to Be Answered
Officials say the plane’s crew asked to climb 6,000 feet due to weather, but why was that request made and why was it denied? Pilots and airline enthusiasts online have discussed secondary radar data from Malaysia — that has yet to be confirmed — suggesting the aircraft was climbing too slowly, and might have stalled as a result.
It has been suggested that the pilot climbed to avoid a thunderstorm,though clues will be difficult to obtain. The French-made plane did not have the real-time sensory equipment installed on planes designed for long-hauls.