Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Searchers confident they have found AirAsia wreckage

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Indonesian Navy personnel lay plastic bags containing the bodies of victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 found at sea off the coast of Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, yesterday.

PANGKALAN BUN, (AP):

Indonesian officials yesterday said they were confident wreckage of AirAsia Flight 8501 had been located after sonar equipment detected four massive objects on the ocean floor.

The biggest piece, measuring 18 metres (59 feet) long and 5.4 metres (18 feet) wide, appeared to be part of the jet's body, said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

Though strong currents and big surf have prevented divers from entering waters to get a visual of the suspected fuselage, officials are hopeful they will find many of the passengers and crew inside, still strapped in their seats.

There were 162 people aboard the plane, but after a week of searching, only 30 bodies have been found floating in the choppy waters.

The Airbus A320 crashed on December 28, halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, to Singapore. Minutes before losing contact, the pilot told air traffic control that he was approaching threatening clouds, but was denied permission to climb to a higher altitude because of heavy air traffic.

It remains unclear what caused the plane to plunge into the Java Sea, though bad weather appears to have been a factor, according to a 14-page report released by Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.

"Flight 8501 appears to have been trapped in bad weather that would have been difficult to avoid," the report said.

While the plane's black boxes the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have yet to be located, the discovery of the wreckage, especially if it is largely intact, would greatly benefit the investigation.

The objects on the seafloor were discovered last Friday and yesterday, and an Indonesian Geological Survey vessel was used to assess their dimensions, Soelistyo said.

In addition to what appeared to be a significant part of the plane's body, chunks of debris found in the target search area measured up to 12 metres (39 feet) long.

Other suspected plane parts were seen scattered on beaches during an aerial survey, Soelistyo said.