SURABAYA, Dec 31 – Divers, ships and aircraft began a new search in the waters off Indonesia Wednesday, a day after spotting the first signs of debris from AirAsia Flight QZ8501. The grim discovery of wreckage from the missing plane and several bodies dealt a heartbreaking blow to families whose loved ones were lost. Debris was found 100-200 kilometers (60-120 miles) from the aircraft’s last known location over the Java Sea, Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said. Six bodies from the flight have been recovered so far, including one flight attendant, Indonesian search and rescue chief Bambang Soelistyo said Wednesday.
Now search teams are homing in on the area near where the debris was found, looking for bodies and parts of the plane, including its so-called black boxes. Those could help investigators determine what went wrong on the flight, which lost contact with air traffic controllers on Sunday with 162 people aboard. Sonar equipment is searching the bottom of the sea, 40 to 50 meters (131 to 164 feet) below the water’s surface, according to SB Supriyadi, the search agency’s director of operations. Dozens of ambulances were lined up in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, ready to carry any bodies recovered. The search isn’t easy; heavy winds and cloudy weather could affect visibility and make scanning the water more difficult.
On Tuesday, searchers spotted a shadow that looked like the plane’s “skeleton,” Supriyadi said, but strong currents have so far stopped their efforts to locate it again on Wednesday. As families watched a live news conference Tuesday about the discovery of the debris and saw video of a helicopter lowering a diver to what appeared to be a floating body, some people fainted. Stretchers were brought into the room. Family members burst into tears, dabbing their eyes as officials passed out tissues. Some sat with their eyes full of tears, hands covering their mouths or heads buried in their hands. Others had phones jammed against their ears.
“Everyone became hysterical, especially the mothers. One mother even blacked out,” said Maria Endang Wirasmi, whose daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren were on the flight. Her husband, Imam Sampurno, said he was relieved the plane had been found. “We hope that our children will be saved by a miracle,” he said. AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes told reporters he hoped there was “at least some closure” for families. “My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501,” he tweeted. “On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.”