AirAsia crash: 12 more bodies sent for identification

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Jakarta, Jan 3: Twelve more bodies of those onboard the crashed AirAsia plane and retrieved from the Java Sea were brought to Indonesia's Surabaya Saturday for identification.

All the bodies were put in white coffins and a brief ceremony was held before they were loaded onto a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, reported Xinhua.

The command post at an air base in Central Kalimantan province had transferred 18 bodies to Surabaya for identification and post-mortem examination by the Disaster Victim Investigation (DVI) agency.

The ill-fated Airbus A320-200 aircraft with 155 passengers and seven crew members on board went missing soon after taking off from Surabaya Dec 28 en route to Singapore's Changi airport. The debris was spotted Tuesday.

The plane was cruising at an altitude of 32,000 feet when it lost contact with the air traffic control over the Java Sea in Indonesian territory amid a thunderstorm raging in the area.

Aviation experts conjecture that the absence of any crash transmission data meant that the experienced former air force pilot, Captain Irianto, might have executed a perfect emergency landing on sea, before the jet was swamped by high waves amid the raging storm.

So far, 30 bodies have been fished out from the Indonesian waters.

The first victim of the ill-fated plane was identified Thursday.

On Saturday, a top Indonesian rescue team official revealed that two large objects that were parts of the crashed AirAsia jet have been found on the seabed.

The objects were found at a depth of 30 metres and their locations were close to each other, according to Indonesian National Search and Rescue Office chief Fransiskus Bambang Sulistyo, said Xinhua.

The rescuers would despatch remotely-operated vehicles to the seabed to take pictures of the objects, the official said, adding that huge waves were hampering the efforts.

According to latest media reports Saturday, citing an Indonesian official, two more objects of much bigger size, believed to be the parts of the crashed jet were found.

A senior agency official said Saturday that the search operation was focused on locating the plane's black boxes.

"The priority is now focused on finding (the) black boxes of the plane so as to help the National Transportation Safety Committee carry out an investigation into the cause of the crash," S.B. Supriyadi told Xinhua.

An international search operation, comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, Russia and the US is on.

A senior official of the Russian team, which had joined the search and rescue operations, said Saturday that the equipment and personnel it has deployed in search of the wreckage and black boxes of the crashed aircraft would be "very much" capable of carrying out the mission.

"The plane can detect even the small icons of wreckage in water and the bottom of the sea. We are quite optimistic regarding the goal of our mission," Xinhua quoted Alexander Shilin, Russian deputy chief of mission, as saying at a press conference after the landing of a Beriev Be-200 amphibious plane at the Pangkalan Bun airbase in Central Kalimantan.

The Russia complement includes 22 divers and 17 search experts, Shilin said, adding the Be-200 also brought a remotely-operated submersible vehicle that could operate in a maximum depth of 300 metres.

"The submersible is equipped with special sonar and acoustic system that can detect the beacon of the black boxes," he said.

The Indonesian team had detected a large shadow of the possible wreckage of the plane Friday near the Bay of Kumai off Central Kalimantan.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's transport ministry Saturday froze AirAsia's Surabaya-Singapore flight route permit effective Jan 2 until the investigation into the crash is completed.

IANS

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