SURABAYA, Dec 31 – DEVASTATED family members wailed, cried and embraced each other as officials informed them that bodies and parts of the missing Indonesia AirAsia QZ8501 aircraft has been found. All were sombre and calm earlier in the day as they awaited news of their loved ones and some even requested to fly over to the search area so that they could pray for whatever little hope for the aircraft and the 162 people who were on board to be found. News which began filtering down from about 2.30pm at the special holding room for the next of kin at the Crisis Centre devastated those who were waiting.
Surabaya National Search and Rescue Agency chief Hernanto, Region 1 Civil Aviation principle director Tommy Soetomo were among the key officials in the room. AirAsia staff, civil aviation authority as well as those from the Sidoarjo district local authority were seen filing into the holding room and the window panes sealed from view to those outside, mostly members of the media. Apart from an earlier live streaming forum with the main operations centre based in Jakarta, the family members were also given regular information feeds from those on the ground and live reports by the media.
When visuals of the debris and what appears to be a body were aired, a woman wailed and was seen lying on the floor in the holding room before being attended to by paramedics who came in with stretchers. Indonesian President Joko Widodo who met the grieving family members at the centre assured that the government would focus on retrieving the remains of the passengers and crew members. “I pray that you find the strength and will to face these challenging times,” he said in giving a brief statement to the media outside the holding room yesterday. Joko who had also visited the target area where three ships are now based after the recovery was made in waters off Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan said the retrieval process would not be an easy task.
“Looking at the location it was murky, misty and the waves up to three metres,” he said but pointed out all the assets would be dispatched to the area for a more intensive search operation by morning today. Joko had expressed his gratitude to those who helped in the search effort the last three days including government agencies, local fishermen, as well as Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes echoed similar words of sympathy and describe the episode as a nightmare. “We will stay strong for the sake of the families of the passengers and crew.
“They are our priority and If possible we want to make their painful experience less. “Right now we wish to bring a speedy conclusion to all of this and I agree to the president focus on evacuating all those at the site first as well as his order for many of the assets to concentrate on the target area. We want to bring closure for all the families.” On retrieving the aircraft and its black box, Fernandes said he would leave it to experts and prefers not to speculate. He also assured the welfare of the family members would not be neglected and that he got to know some of them and feel for their loss.