Fri, Mar 13, 2015 - Page 5 News List

AirAsia hunt for bodies draws to a close

AFP, SYDNEY

AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes yesterday said that he had not given up on finding more bodies from one of the airline’s jets that crashed in the Java Sea last year, but flagged the hunt would draw to a close within weeks.

More than 100 bodies and the black box recorders have been recovered since Flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather while flying from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore on Dec. 28 last year, killing all 162 people on board.

“My message is we’re not giving up. [The families] know that because I’m speaking to them every day,” Fernandes told reporters in Sydney, adding that about 60 bodies had yet to be found, including the captain.

“We have been successful from a sea operation like this. To get more than 50 percent is considered a huge success,” he said.

However, the Malaysian low-cost airline chief executive said the search could not “go on indefinitely.”

“There is a time period and we’ve agreed with the families that this is obviously not something that can go on indefinitely, but it’s important for us that the families agreed on this and that’s why I give them credit that they didn’t keep insisting that we go on forever,” Fernandes said. “I’d say seven to 10 full operational days and then we’ll probably have to close it down.”

Fernandes did not say when the last victims had been found, but Indonesian authorities have reported far fewer discoveries of bodies in recent weeks.

The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has so far shed little light on what caused Flight QZ8501 to crash, or what occurred in the moments before the tragedy.

Indonesia is set to release the final report into the crash by August, the transport minister said last month.

Fernandes, in Australia to announce new flights from the country to Indonesia, said long-haul budget carrier Indonesia AirAsia X was reviewing safety procedures and operations, although nothing had been changed as yet.

“There’s no guarantee that AirAsia is never going to have another incident again as I’ve always said from the beginning, but what we’ll do is we’ll mitigate as much as possible,” Fernandes said. “We’ll be transparent, we’ll be open and we’re working very hard on that ... we owe it to those families that whatever we can possibly do to be the best, we will be the best, there’s no doubt about it.”

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