Mon, Jan 26, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Broken rope slows AirAsia jet retrieval

HOBBLED EFFORTS:An Indonesian search official said the cockpit and fuselage are about 500m apart on the floor of the Java Sea, where Flight QZ8501 went down

AP, PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia

A second attempt to lift the fuselage of a crashed AirAsia jetliner failed yesterday, with the wreckage returning to the seafloor when a rope linking the lifting balloons broke.

Indonesian Navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir said the strong current in the Java Sea was the main obstacle yesterday.

He added that searchers retrieved one body during the operation. A total of 70 bodies have been retrieved from the crash.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 on Dec. 28 last year with 162 people on board while flying from Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, to Singapore.

The first attempt on Saturday failed when some of the lifting balloons deflated.

The fuselage is believed to contain many of the victims’ bodies.

An Indonesian retrieval team lifted the fuselage almost to the water’s surface before the lifting balloons deflated on Saturday.

Four bodies were discovered near the area where dozens of divers were struggling with strong currents and poor visibility to prepare to retrieve the 30m-long section of the aircraft, Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency operations coordinator Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi said.

Divers reached the fuselage section for the first time on Friday and retrieved six bodies.

“We now need additional balloons,” Supriyadi said after Saturday’s setback.

Supriyadi added that the cockpit was reported to be about 500m from the fuselage, at a depth of 30m, and the bodies of the pilot and copilot might be inside.

“Divers would evacuate [them] if they are there,” he said.

Media reports on Saturday said that the fuselage was lifted to about 7m from the surface before some of the balloons failed.

Some passengers’ belongings, such as cookies, milk boxes, hair rollers and even an iPhone with an attached earphone, as well as aircraft parts, such as seat cushions and tables, floated out as the fuselage was being lifted, the Detik.com Web site reported.

Bad weather is a suspected factor in the crash. Just before the flight disappeared, the pilots asked to climb to a higher altitude to avoid threatening clouds, but were denied permission by air traffic controllers because of heavy air traffic.

Investigators are analyzing data from the aircraft’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders with advisers from Airbus, the aircraft’s manufacturer.

Tatang Kurniadi, head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, has ruled out sabotage and said that a preliminary report on the accident is expected to be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization next week.

A full analysis of what went wrong could take up to a year, Kurniadi said.

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