On Wednesday (7th Jan), part of the tail of crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 was found in the Java Sea. It was spotted by teams involving divers and unmanned underwater vehicles, search and rescue chief Bambang Soelistyo said in Jakarta.

The find was the first significant piece of wreckage from the crash to be identified and was found in an area some 30km (19 miles) from the initial search area. It has the AirAsia mark on it, Mr Soelistyo said. It was buried in mud, in water 30m (98ft) deep, and is believed to be upside down.

Source: BBC
Source: BBC

The tail should contain the “black boxes” – the voice and flight data recorders – which could give investigators clues as to the cause of the crash. It was found in a secondary search area, lending weight to theories that strong currents have moved the debris. Despite powerful sea currents and murky water, searchers managed to take photographs, he said. On one piece, the letter A appears to be painted.

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Yesterday (9th Jan), AirAsia released an official statement which read:

The SAR Operation led by The National SAR Agency (BASARNAS) Republic of Indonesia continues today with marginally better weather and clear visibility for the sea divers to recover more remains and debris of QZ8501’s aircraft from the sea.

Sea divers were also deployed to attach the floating bags on the aircraft’s tail piece in order to lift it out from water.Meanwhile, BASARNAS also assures that passengers search and evacuation are still the main priority and the black box search is still underway.

As of this morning, BASARNAS confirms to have recovered seven more remains in which the seven remains are already arrived at Pangkalan Bun.

Meanwhile, passengers’ belongings found in the focused search area are already secured at the crisis center in East Java Region Police Headquarter, Surabaya. AirAsia Indonesia will secure other belongings found during the SAR operations and return them to eligible Next-Of-Kins following a strict screening process.

The Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Police Department of Republic of Indonesia (DVI POLRI) today announced that they were able to identify two more remains known as: Martinus Djomi (male) and Marwin Sholeh (male).

To date, BASARNAS has confirmed to have recovered atotal of 48 remains of which 27 remains have been identified by DVI POLRI and21 remains are still being identified.

AirAsia Indonesia would like to take this opportunity to urge the public seeking progress on the search and evacuation and identification process of QZ 8501 passengers to refer solely to official information from BASARNAS and DVI POLRI.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of our passengers and colleagues on board QZ 8501.

However, divers alone couldn’t bring the tail to the surface as it needed additional equipments to do so.

As such, a parallel operation took place nearby from the Indonesian Navy’s KRI Banda Aceh warship to lift the tail of the plane out of the water using giant balloons. The balloons, some with a capacity to lift 35 tonnes, were to be attached to the tail, according to officials involved in the operation.

And at 3pm today, according to reports, the plane tail of QZ8501 has been lifted to the surface from the seabed with a crane:

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*Pictures from AFP / Getty Images ADEK BERRY and BASARNAS.

The plane tail will be examined to see if the black box recorders are inside. This is because, based on the pings that have been detected, there’s a high chance that the black boxes aren’t in the tail, although there were high hopes of quickly retrieving them once the plane tail was spotted. Hence, the search took a frustrating twist when authorities realised the pings were likely coming away from the tail, and the boxes appeared to be buried deep into the sea floor.

S.B Supriyadi, a director with the National Search and Rescue Agency, told AFP:

Last night, our divers had opened the door of the tail cabin, searched around but found nothing. But the boat above detected faint ping sounds believed to be from the black boxes about 1.6km southeast of the tail … and covered in mud. They are searching within a radius of 500 metres from where the pings are emitted. The challenge is that these sounds are very faint. If a ship passes by, the sounds will be drowned out. So we really need calm waters. So far, our divers still have not been able to determine the coordinates of the black box.

Supriyadi said the divers, from an elite Marines unit, returned on Saturday morning to the area believed to be where the pings were emanating from more than 30 metres (100 feet) underwater. As such, Indonesian military divers are currently heavily focused on chasing the faint signals believed to be from the black box data recorders of an AirAsia plane.

This photograph from April 2014 shows Indonesia AirAsia’s Airbus A320-200 PK-AXC in the air near Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport.
This photograph from April 2014 shows Indonesia AirAsia’s Airbus A320-200 PK-AXC in the air near Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport.

The ill-fated AirAsia Indonesia Flight QZ8501 was lost en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on 28th Dec, with 162 people aboard. The cause of the crash is not known but the plane was flying through stormy weather at the time and had requested permission to change course.

No survivors have been found.

Sources: BBC, CNA.

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