Indonesia sends divers to examine AirAsia wreckage

Indonesian Navy personnel prepare to transfer body bags containing dead bodies recovered during a search operation for passengers of AirAsia flight QZ8501. (Reuters)

Divers prepared Sunday to examine wreckage of AirAsia Flight 8501 in hopes of retrieving the rest of the bodies and finding out more on what caused the plane to crash a week ago, the Associated Press reported.

The divers are being sent following a major development in the search for the airplane when sonar equipment aboard search ships detected four massive objects on the ocean floor in the Java Sea.

Indonesian officials said they were confident the objects belong to the plane.

About 90 divers from Indonesia and Russia were being deployed to recover more bodies that officials believe are still strapped in their seats, said National Search and Rescue deputy chief Tatang Zainudin.

“We hope lower waves will give us a better result today,” Zainudin said. “We are racing with time and weather in running this mission.”

As search operations continued, Indonesian officials said the was a “triggering factor” in the fatal crash of the flight with icing likely causing engine damage, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Based on the available data received on the location of the aircraft’s last contact, the weather was the triggering factor behind the accident,” a report by Indonesia’s meteorological agency said.

“Based on the available data received on the location of the aircraft’s last contact, the weather was the triggering factor behind the accident,” a report by Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said.

The plane crashed Dec. 28, halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to Singapore. Minutes before losing contact, the pilot told air traffic control that he was approaching threatening clouds, but was denied permission to climb to a higher altitude because of heavy air traffic.

“Flight 8501 appears to have been trapped in bad weather that would have been difficult to avoid,” the report said.

While the plane’s black boxes - the flight data and cockpit voice recorders - have yet to be located, the discovery of the wreckage, especially if it is largely intact, would greatly benefit the investigation.

The objects on the seafloor were discovered Friday and Saturday, and an Indonesian Geological Survey vessel was used to assess their dimensions. In addition to what appeared to be a significant part of the plane’s body, chunks of debris found in the target search area measured up to 12 meters (39 feet) long.

Other suspected plane parts were seen scattered on beaches during an aerial survey.

Generally, aviation experts say the more passengers, luggage and parts of the aircraft that remain intact, the more likely the plane hit the water in one piece. That would signal problems like a mechanical error or a stall instead of a midair breakup due to an explosion or sudden depressurization.

Indonesian authorities suspended AirAsia flights from Surabaya to Singapore, with the Transport Ministry saying the airline did not have a permit to fly on Sundays. However, Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority said Saturday that from its end, the airline had been approved to fly the route daily.

AirAsia, which began operations in 2001 and quickly became one of the region’s most popular low-cost carriers, said it was reviewing the suspension. The crash was the airline’s first.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43