“AirAsia Indonesia regrets to inform that The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) today confirmed that the debris found earlier today is indeed from QZ8501, the flight that had lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of [the] 28th,” the airline confirmed on its Facebook page on Tuesday evening.
BASARNAS chief Bambang Soelistyo had earlier declared on Tuesday that it was 95 per cent certain that a debris field in the Pangkalan Bun search zone was from the aircraft.
“The debris of the aircraft was found in the Karimata Strait around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun,” AirAsia’s Facebook post said.
Numerous bodies had been recovered from the Pangkalan Bun search zone on Tuesday, with helicopters and ships that had been participating in the search-and-rescue efforts now focusing on recovery at the crash site.
A significant shadow in the 25-30m deep area of the Java Sea was thought to be the six-year-old Airbus A320, registered PL-AXC, which had 155 passengers and 7 crewmembers on board its flight between the Indonesian city of Surabaya and Singapore. Further debris had been initially identified as an aircraft door, an evacuation slide, luggage, and a life vest.
“I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the wellbeing of the family members of those onboard QZ8501,” Tony Fernandes, AirAsia group chief executive officer, said.
Aircraft and ships from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, the People’s Republic of China and the United States are converging on what will now become a recovery effort. Two RAAF AP-3C Orions were assisting with the search on Tuesday. As the recovery progresses, divers and submersibles will be used to retrieve remains and evidence from what appears to be relatively shallow water.
Pangkalan Bun’s Iskandar Airport (PKN), with its single 1,650m runway, is expected to play a significant role in the logistics effort. The search and rescue effort had previously been directed from Pangkal Pinang, approximately 300km to the west, while officials briefed families and media at Juanda International Airport (SUB) in Surabaya, where the flight originated and the city that most passengers on the aircraft called home, several hundred kilometers southeast.
The investigation to determine the cause of the crash will now commence, with questions already being asked about the weather in the inter-tropical convergence zone, future inflight tracking of aircraft, and the seemingly non-functioning emergency locator beacons.
Editor’s note: several media outlets and the #QZ8501 hashtag on Twitter are showing images of bodies and wreckage that some viewers may find disturbing.