Debris, bodies from Asian plane found at sea
PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia (AP) —
Family members of those aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 collapsed in agony Tuesday as images of debris and a bloated body flashed across Indonesian television screens, proof that the plane crashed into the sea two days earlier with 162 people on board.
The low-cost carrier vanished Sunday halfway through a two-hour flight between Surabaya, Indonesia and Singapore after encountering storm clouds, sparking an international hunt with dozens of planes, ships and helicopters.
On the third day of searching, the first signs of the jet were found in shallow, aqua waters only about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the plane's last known coordinates: A life jacket, an emergency exit door.
Parts of the jetliner's interior, including an oxygen tank, were brought to the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun.
Another find included a bright blue plastic suitcase, completely unscratched.
First Admiral Sigit Setiayanta, Naval Aviation Center commander at Surabaya Air Force base, told reporters six corpses were spotted about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Borneo island.
Rescue workers were lowered on ropes from a hovering helicopter to retrieve bodies.
Efforts were hindered by two-metre-high (6-foot) waves and strong winds, National Search and Rescue Director SB Supriyadi said, but several victims were later picked up by a navy ship.
Supriyadi had been on the aircraft and saw what appeared to be more wreckage under the water, which was clear and a relatively shallow 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet).
Television coverage of the discovery sent a spasm of pain through the room at the Surabaya airport where relatives were waiting for news, especially as it showed a half-naked man floating in the water, a shirt partially covering his head.
Many screamed and wailed uncontrollably, breaking down into tears while they squeezed each other.
One middle-aged man collapsed and had to be carried out on a stretcher.
The crash caps an astonishingly tragic year for air travel in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia in particular.
Malaysia-based AirAsia's loss comes on top of the still-unsolved disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March with 239 people aboard, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine, which killed all 298 passengers and crew.
Nearly all the passengers and crew were Indonesians, who are frequent visitors to Singapore, particularly on holidays.
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