First AirAsia crash bodies arrive in Indonesia

Indonesian military personnel carry the coffin of a victim recovered from the ill-fated Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501, upon their arrival at the military airbase in Surabaya, East Java Wednesday. PHOTO |AFP

SURABAYA, Indonesia,

Soldiers acting as pall bearers today carried coffins containing the first two bodies from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 into Surabaya airport, from where the ill-fated plane departed, as sombre relatives gave their DNA to help identify loved ones.

The bodies were taken from an air force plane to a military ambulance to be transported to a hospital for examination and identification — but many exhausted families were left waiting for news as bad weather hampered search efforts.

Officials had hoped to recover most of the bodies but rough conditions made it difficult for helicopters to fly over the area in the Java Sea where several corpses and debris from the Airbus A320-200 were found a day earlier.

In Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya, where the plane had departed for Singapore early on Sunday, drained and emotional relatives of the 162 people on board gathered at a crisis centre to hand over documents and medical records.

Among them was Hadi Widjaja, 60, who was preparing a Muslim funeral for his son Andreas and daughter-in-law Enny Wahyuni.

“I am anxious to know if the rescuers have found their bodies. The president has said that they will do the best they can to find them,” Mr Widjaja told AFP.

“But if they really cannot find them, I will scatter flowers in the sea here as a way to say goodbye.”

FAMILY MEMBERS DNA TAKEN

Police in Surabaya said they had taken DNA from 30 immediate family members to assist with the identification of bodies at a local hospital, to which the crisis centre is also being shifted.

Seven bodies have been recovered from the sea so far, officials said, and all of them were due to reach Surabaya by Wednesday night.

Storms delayed the start of operations on Wednesday and helicopters were later forced to return to the base in Pangkalan Bun, the town with the nearest airstrip to the crash site.

“For the safety reasons, we turned back,” helicopter pilot Tatang Onne Setiawan told AFP.

“Besides the evacuation of the bodies, we also planned to search for bigger parts of the plane.”

Boat-based teams called off the search for bodies as night fell, but ships with sonar equipment were continuing their search for the plane’s fuselage.

AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes denied reports that sonar images had located the aircraft on the seabed.

“There is no sonar, nothing, some visual identification but nothing confirmed,” he told reporters.

He said however that the search team was “feeling more comfortable. They are beginning to know where it is”.

During Tuesday’s searches, an air force plane saw a “shadow” on the seabed believed to be the missing plane, where search efforts have since been concentrated.

Debris found from the aircraft, which crashed into the Java Sea southwest of the island of Borneo during a storm, included an exit door and several suitcases.

“There were snacks, instant porridge, and three umbrellas,” commander of the Bung Tomo warship, Colonel Yayan, told a local news channel, referring to the 28 items that had been retrieved. Nation.

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