Rescue teams found debris and bodies from AirAsia Flight 8501 floating in the Java Sea on Tuesday, ending a search effort that lasted more than two days for the plane that disappeared on Sunday an hour after takeoff. Search teams told local media they spotted suitcases and life vests floating in the water amid debris from the aircraft that had taken off from Indonesia on its way to Singapore with 162 people on board. Indonesian Navy officials said 40 bodies had been recovered so far, Reuters reports.
“Rescue workers were shown on local TV being lowered on ropes from a hovering helicopter to retrieve bodies,” according to the Associated Press. “Indonesian television showed a half-naked body of a man whose shirt partially covered his head. The images sent a spasm of pain through family members watching together in a waiting room at the Surabaya airport.”
Indonesian officials said six corpses were spotted 10 miles from the plane's last known coordinates and 100 miles from land. AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted his condolences after the debris was discovered:
My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences ... http://t.co/OJGobL93cR— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 30, 2014
I am rushing to Surabaya. Whatever we can do at Airasia we will be doing.— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 30, 2014
It is still unclear what exactly happened to AirAsia Flight 8501, but bad weather is suspected to have played a role in the crash after pilots requested permission to fly at a higher altitude to avoid storm clouds. Permission was denied by air traffic control because of heavy traffic, and minutes later the plane disappeared from radar without sending a distress signal.