AirAsia QZ8501: Indonesian military withdraws from search and rescue for fuselage and bodies

Seventy bodies have been found so far out of 162

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The military in Indonesia has stopped helping recover bodies and the fuselage of the crashed AirAsia plane from the Java Sea after four days of unsuccessful attempts, an official said yesterday.

However, the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency said it would continue looking for victims with its own ships and helicopters after poor visibility and strong currents hampered attempts to lift the aircraft wreckage where passengers had been seated.


Rear Admiral Widodo, head of the military’s search and rescue task force, apologised to the victims’ families for being unable to retrieve the bodies after announcing the decision to withdraw three warships and two military helicopters from the operation.

A total of 70 bodies have been recovered from AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed on 28 December with 162 people on board as it flew from Indonesia’s second largest city Surabaya to Singapore.

Admiral Widodo said: “Our priority was to find the dead bodies, and we found nothing over the last two days.

“We are really sorry to tell the families of the victims that we’ve done everything we could to find the bodies.”

About 80 navy divers struggled with trying to lift the fuselage from a depth of 100ft (30 meters). They were able to enter the fuselage for the first time last Friday to retrieve some bodies.

Indonesian search and rescue team pulling wreckage out of the sea

The fuselage is not needed for the investigation and no more bodies were believed to be inside, the admiral claimed.

Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said the withdrawal of the military did not mean the search for bodies would stop.

“Our aim is to locate bodies instead of lifting the fuselage or cockpit,” he said.

The cockpit is about 550 yards (500 metres) from the fuselage on the floor of the Java Sea, and the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot are believed to be inside.

Investigators are analysing data from the Airbus A320’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders to ascertain what had caused the disaster.