AirAsia confirmed today that searchers have found debris and bodies from missing Flight QZ8501, which dropped off radar Sunday on the 2-hour flight from Surabaya to Singapore.
The wreckage was found about six miles southeast of the plane’s last known radar location. Since the flight was headed north, it’s unknown if the pilot tried to turn the plane around or if current in the Java Sea carried the debris.
From the airline:
AirAsia Indonesia regrets to inform that The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) today confirmed that the debris found earlier today is indeed from QZ8501, the flight that had lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of 28th.
The debris of the aircraft was found in the Karimata Strait around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun. The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC. There were 155 passengers on board, with 137 adults, 17 children and 1 infant. Also on board were 2 pilots, 4 cabin crews and one engineer.
At the present time, search and rescue operations are still in progress and further investigation of the debris found at the location is still underway. AirAsia Indonesia employees have been sent to the site and will be fully cooperating with BASARNAS, National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC), and relevant authorities on the investigation.
Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Indonesia said: “We are sorry to be here today under these tragic circumstances. We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of those on board QZ8501. Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues.”
Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia added: “I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the wellbeing of the family members of those onboard QZ8501.”
Citing Indonesia’s navy, Reuters reported this morning that about 40 bodies have been plucked from the water. That number was later decreased to about six bodies. The U.S. is one of the countries assisting in the recovery effort.
Meanwhile, online buzz has been growing about a Chinese blogger’s apparent warning to stay off AirAsia nearly two weeks before the flight vanished, claiming that a group called “Black Hand” had also brought down Malaysian Airlines flights MH370 and MH17.
In one comment on December 15, which has been loosely translated by a Reddit member, the blogger apparently warns: ‘Black hand has hijacked and shot down MH370 and MH17.
‘This has pretty much killed the sixth largest airline: Malaysian airline.
‘Now the black hand are targeting AirAsia to ruin this airline cause (sic) it too belong to Malaysia.
‘Given how powerful the black hand are I suggest that all Chinese thinking about travelling to avoid AirAisa, so that you don’t disappear like those on MH370.’
Black Hand is a term believed to be a metaphor for a covert organisation or a number of underground groups.
One Reddit user suggests the translation should read ‘International big black hand’ which they say is more of a reference to a ‘despicable international bully’.
No Chinese nationals were on Flight 8501 when it disappeared.
The blogger reportedly peppered social media with a total of 39 posts on the subject which have been viewed by more than 650,000 people.