LIVE: Bad weather obstructs AirAsia flight debris recovery; 6 bodies found

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

AirAsia Debris Hunt Hampered by Weather as Six Bodies Recovered.

A family member of passengers onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 reacts after seeing an unidentified floating dead body during a search and rescue mission with Indonesian military personnel over the waters of the Java Sea on Dec. 30. BEIJING — With the discovery of floating wreckage and bodies Tuesday in waters off Indonesia, the massive search-and-rescue effort for a missing AirAsia jet now turns into a recovery operation. Photographer: Juni Kriswanto/AFP via Getty Images Search crews looking for debris from the crashed AirAsia Bhd. (AIRA) jetliner were hindered by adverse weather as Indonesian authorities sent in divers to look for the plane’s black boxes. Searchers recovered three more bodies, including a female flight attendant, from the wreckage site of Flight 8501, while 17 helicopters are readying to help with the recovery efforts, F.H.

For families — who had been awaiting word ever since the jet lost radar contact Sunday — it was grim confirmation of their worst fears: that the plane and its 162 passengers had plunged from the storm-laced skies. The cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders are essential to piecing together what happened in the six minutes between the time the pilot asked the control tower for permission to deviate from the flight path and when the jet dropped off radar contact. A plane that simply disappears, taking with it the lives of all of its passengers but leaving behind a dreadful limbo where their families are still waiting to mourn, trapped by the fish-hook of hope. Aviation crisis consultant Ken Jenkins, who worked with families of the Malaysian Airline families, says, “When you don’t have the aircraft or any wreckage or any confirmation of what happened to them, the mind will certainly work with you to say maybe they are alive. At the Surabaya airport, about 400 miles southeast of Jakarta, relatives of those on the flight broke down in tears as television images showed the recovery of a body, bloated by the sun and sea.

Maybe the plane landed safely somewhere and that certainly is within the realm of possibility but not a very high possibility.” More than 9 months after MH370 disappeared, those left behind are still walking around with open wounds. They have endured months of false sightings and conspiracy theories, see-sawing between the desire to see their loved ones again and the desperate need to be able to just let go.

No mention was made of survivors. “It wasn’t a controlled ditching,” said Paul Hayes, safety director at London-based aviation consulting company Ascend Worldwide Ltd. “That’s clear from the finding of bodies that don’t have life jackets on.” The crash site is in an area around Pangkalan Bun, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of Singapore. The top goal, authorities said, was to recover more bodies when operations resumed at first light Wednesday — an effort that was complicated by strong winds and waves up to 10 feet high. Indonesia’s rescue operations chief, Bambang Soelistyo, said that at least six bodies were seen and that three were recovered and placed on an Indonesian warship Tuesday. The black boxes of the A320 aircraft, which are actually encased in bright orange to facilitate their retrieval, are waterproof, fortified and designed to emit an electronic signal underwater for 30 days to help searchers find them. A spokesman for the country’s navy, Manahan Simorangkir, initially said that more than 40 bodies were recovered but later told reporters that number was an error based on“miscommunication” by his staff.

In December, when the Wall Street Journal spoke to him, Mukherjee was busy trying to obtain a death certificate for his not-officially dead son so he can assume guardianship of his grandchildren. But others are less able to move on, and remain in the thrall of desperate hope. “I haven’t grieved yet,” Sarah Bajc, who lost her partner, told WSJ, “I haven’t accepted that he’s dead.…I owe it to him to find out the truth.” This then is the dreadful gift those drifting pieces of debris offer: the gift of truth. In the 2009 Air France Flight 447 crash, to which many experts have compared the AirAsia situation, the majority of bodies were not recovered until authorities found the submerged fuselage. As Jenkins says, “People can handle the truth, they just want to know what the truth is.” Truth may not always prevail, but it will always set us free. Meanwhile, an array of debris was carried Tuesday to Indonesian ports: a portable oxygen tank, a light-blue wheeled suitcase, a portion of the inner layer of the aircraft cabin.

It was discovered by a fisherman, who hadn’t heard of the missing plane and had no clue what the debris signified until he returned to his village, local news outlet Tempo reported. “When we approached closer [we saw] they were already dead,” said Lt. The spotters on the plane also saw what looked like a shadow on the seabed in the shape of a plane, which search officials believe could be the main wreckage.

A former accident investigator, John Cox, said the plane’s voice and flight data recorders — if found — would have to be sent for analysis by other countries, such as the United States or Australia, that have more advanced decoding technology. It could take up to three days to fully study the data, he added. “It’s important to know because that tells you whether it was a force like a storm that destroyed the airplane in air or if it was a matter of the pilots losing control and never able to recover from it,” said Australia-based aviation security expert Desmond Ross. Brian Murphy joined the Post after more than 20 years as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief for the Associated Press in Europe and the Middle East.

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