Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Jakarta ends plane crash search

LETTING GO:Relatives of the AirAsia crash praised rescuers for doing a ‘good job’ and said that they have to accept the ‘sad reality’ that the missing may never be found

AFP, JAKARTA

Indonesian rescue personnel on Tuesday carry a coffin bearing the recovered body of an AirAsia Flight QZ8501 victim onto a plane in Pangkalan Bun airport, on Borneo, to be transported to Surabaya, Indonesia, for police forensic identification.

Photo: AFP

An Indonesian whose daughter-in-law is among 56 people unaccounted for following the crash in December last year of an AirAsia plane yesterday said his family had accepted the “sad reality” that her body would never be found.

Rescuers called off the hunt for the remaining passengers on Tuesday, almost three months after AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather as it flew from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, killing all 162 people on board.

The crash of the Airbus A320-200 sparked a huge international search, with ships and aircraft from several nations scouring the waters for the plane wreckage and the victims.

In recent weeks the hunt had already been scaled back, with just Indonesia’s civilian search-and-rescue agency involved and only a small number of new bodies found.

Early yesterday, the last ships involved in the search left Pangkalan Bun, the town on Borneo Island, which had served as a base for the hunt, agency official S.B. Supriyadi said.

A total of 106 bodies have been recovered, with the last three found during the weekend.

Hadi Widjaja, whose son and daughter-in-law were on the flight, praised rescuers for doing a “good job.” His son has been found, but his daughter-in-law remains missing. He said her family realized it was time to move on.

“Her parents and my family have let her go in peace. We have to accept this sad reality,” Widjaja told reporters.

“The rescuers spent three months on this search operation,” he said, adding that his family “really appreciated their work.”

Eka Santoso, whose brother, sister-in-law and their two children were on the plane, said he believed if the search operation was extended, more bodies could be found, but he had accepted the decision to end it. The body of his brother has been retrieved, but his three other relatives remain missing.

“I have already asked AirAsia and the search-and-rescue agency to extend the search, but I cannot do more,” the 53-year-old said.

He said he would just have to “accept that they are no longer searching for our loved ones.”

Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency, said the decision to end the search had been taken after consulting the victims’ relatives at a meeting in Surabaya.

“The search should have ended much earlier, but out of respect for family members, we extended the operation until we completely ended it yesterday [Tuesday],” he told reporters.

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

It has reported that the airplane climbed rapidly in an area of towering storm clouds before crashing, and that the co-pilot was at the controls, rather than the more experienced pilot, in the moments before the accident.

The plane’s black box flight data recorders have been recovered, and will provide vital clues as investigators seek to figure out what caused the crash.

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