The tail section of the crashed AirAsia flight is upside down and partially buried in the floor of the Java Sea, an Indonesian official said Thursday.
Suryadi Surpiyadi, a search and rescue operation coordinator, said experts are trying to figure out how to remove the voice and data recorders — known as the black boxes — from the buried tail section.
He said the registration number, PK-AXC, and part of the AirAsia logo proved that the tail section was from Flight 8501, which crashed Dec. 28 with 162 on board. He said two Indonesian military divers showed how the tail plunged into muddy seabed upside down.”
Expert teams from Indonesia and France are now looking for a technique on how to find and lift the black boxes from the plane’s tail in such a position,” Suryadi said.
Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency chief, Henry Soelistyo, had announced Wednesday that the tail section was found, in the first confirmed sighting of wreckage from the jetliner
Divers, whose efforts have been hindered for days by bad weather, and an unmanned underwater vehicle spotted the debris and managed to photograph it, Soelistyo told reporters. One of the released underwater photos clearly shows an upside down “A” on a piece of metal.
“Today we successfully discovered the part of the plane that became the main aim since yesterday,” Soelistyo said. “I can ensure that this is part of the tail with the AirAsia mark on it.”
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted: “I am led to believe the tail section has been found. If right part of tail section then the black box should be there.” He continued: “We need to find all parts soon so we can find all our guests to ease the pain of our families. That still is our priority.”
Soelistyo said recovering the bodies of more crash victims is a top priority in addition to retrieving the black boxes. So far, 40 bodies have been found, including one on Wednesday.
Bodies begin to sink after two weeks and those that have been recovered already show serious signs of decomposition, said Anton Castilani, head of the country’s disaster identification victim unit.
The airline said Wednesday that it will offer family members about $100,000 in compensation for each passenger, in addition to the $24,000 offered to families to help them with immediate financial hardship.
What caused the plane to crash is still not known, though Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency says bad weather appears to have been a factor and that icing is a likely culprit.
During the flight, the pilots had asked permission to climb to avoid storm clouds. Other aircraft were in the vicinity, so air-traffic controllers denied the request. Minutes later the jet vanished without giving a distress signal.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Jane Onyanga-Omara, Oren Dorrell and William M. Welch, USA TODAY
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