AirAsia Flight 8501: hopes crushed as bodies, debris found

As the first body was shown floating in the water on rolling television news in Indonesia, relatives burst into tears and hugged one another amid cries for more ambulances.
Relatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight react upon seeing the news on television about the findings of bodies near the site where the jetliner disappeared. This photo was taken at the crisis centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, on December 30, 2014. Trisnadi/AP Photo
Relatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight react upon seeing the news on television about the findings of bodies near the site where the jetliner disappeared. This photo was taken at the crisis centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, on December 30, 2014. Trisnadi/AP Photo

SURABAYA // Gruesome images on Indonesian TV on Tuesday confirmed the worst fears of distraught relatives: AirAsia Flight 8501 lay at the the bottom of the Java Sea and their 162 loved ones were dead.

As television news showed the first body floating in the water, family members wept hysterically in the room where they had been waiting for nearly three days for information.

One man covered his face and had to be held up by two others before he collapsed and was carried out on a stretcher. Another woman screamed and cried as she was supported by the mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini.

“My heart will be totally crushed if it’s true. I will lose a son,” said one relative, Dwijanto, 60.

Munif, 50, whose younger brother Siti Rahmah was on the plane, said he had been trying hard to keep the other families calm. “But the atmosphere was very different after the footage of a dead body was shown. Families became hysterical,” he said.

“Because everyone was wailing and yelling, I couldn’t deal with it so I decided I had to leave the room.”

Agus Panjaya, 36, a businessman, lost six relatives on the plane: his grandmother Go Indree, 80, and his aunt and uncle and their three children.

“Of course we feel sad about our loved ones but we had prepared ourselves for the worst,” he said.

“Before this everything was unclear. At least there is now some form of closure. For the past three days, we were really sad. We couldn’t sleep well.”

Mr Panjaya said he was going to wait in Surabaya for the bodies. “We don’t think of compensation at the moment. As long as the bodies are being brought back, we are already grateful. That’s what we are thinking right now.”

The Airbus A320-200 disappeared on Sunday on its way to Singapore from Surabaya, amid lightning and storm clouds over the Java Sea.

More than 48 hours after the plane lost contact with air traffic control, aerial searchers spotted the first debris in the Karimata Strait, off Borneo.

AirAsia staff confirmed that the wreckage was from their plane, and the airline’s chief executive Tony Fernandes said: “I am absolutely devastated. This is a scar with me for the rest of my life.”

Eight bodies were recovered from the sea before darkness fell and the search was continuing overnight.

The Indonesian president Joko Widodo said he had instructed all search teams to focus on finding the remains of the passengers and crew.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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