After two days of searching debris and bodies have been recovered of the coast of the island of Borneo, 10 kilometres from Flight 8501’s last known coordinates.
The recovery ends the painful mystery of the AirAsia jet, which crashed Sunday morning during a scheduled two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore.
Searchers have discovered what appears to be a life jacket and an emergency exit door. Part of the plane’s interior, including an oxygen tank, were also recovered and brought to the nearest town, Pangkalan Bun, along with a bright blue plastic suitcase, that appeared to be in perfect condition, reports CTV News.
An AFP photographer accompanying searchers said he had observed further objects in the sea including those resembling a life raft, life jackets and long orange tubes.
Over 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States have been involved in the search.
First Adm. Sigit Setiayanta, Naval Aviation Center commander at Surabaya Air Force base, told reporters that six corpses were spotted off the island of Borneo, approximately 160 kilometres from land.
Efforts to retrieve the bodies have been hindered by 2-metre-high waves and strong winds, National Search and Rescue Director SB Supriyadi said. He noted that several bodies had to be recovered by a naval vessel.
Spasms of pain and the screams of family members filled the waiting rooms of Surabaya airport as Indonesian television showed the recovery of a half-naked body from the ocean, with head only partially covered.
Officials confirmed that the plane, which did not send out a distress signal, disappeared 40 minutes into its flight after its pilot failed to obtain permission to fly higher to avoid worrisome storm clouds because of heavy air traffic in the vicinity.
The plane had been traveling at 32,000 feet and has asked to ascend to 38,000 feet.
The Indonesian pilot on Flight 8501 was experienced, and the plane last underwent maintenance in mid-November, the airline confirmed.
Reuters notes that online discussion among pilots has focused on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that seems to suggested that the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that may have caused the plane to stall.
This familiar mix of mystery and grief comes nine months after the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over the Indian Ocean.