Recovery teams are launching a “massive search” in the Java Sea for victims of the AirAsia flight QZ8501 crash, as investigators look for the plane’s crucial data recorders. Indonesian officials confirmed Tuesday that remains and debris found in the waters off Borneo are from the plane.
Crews on board aircraft and ships are to scour the sea on Wednesday. The Airbus A320-200, carrying 162 people from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, disappeared on Sunday. President Joko Widodo said a “massive search by the ships and helicopters” would now take place.
Singapore has sent ships equipped with sensors to detect pings that may be emitted from the plane’s black boxes. Malaysia, Australia and Thailand are also involved in the search. The United States of America, USA destroyer USS Sampson has been sent to the zone.
Several bodies have been recovered from the water, but officials have disagreed on the number. “I know the plane has crashed, but I cannot believe my brother and his family are dead,” Ifan Joko told the Associated Press news agency. He said he had lost seven relatives, three of them children, as they travelled to Singapore to celebrate the New Year.
Meanwhile tributes have been paid to the pilot, Captain Iriyanto, an Indonesian national who has been described as an experienced airman.
Friends said he was “professional and humble.” AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes said earlier that support would be offered to the families of victims and that search teams would work for a “speedy conclusion.” The first debris from the plane was spotted earlier on Tuesday. Pictures of debris and bodies were shown on Indonesian TV. Relatives of passengers on the plane watching the pictures were visibly shocked, with some collapsing.
An AirAsia statement on Tuesday said the remains were found in the Karimata Strait, south-west of Pangkalan Bun in the Borneo province of Central Kalimantan. The head of the search operation, Bambang Soelistyo, said that a shadow had been spotted under the water, which appeared to be in the shape of a plane.