Family and friends of the ill-fated AirAsia Flight 8501, had spent the last few days of their lives in an agonizing anticipation, waiting for a sign of hope. However, their resilient optimism would be dashed, only three days later, after the tell-tale signs of the tragedy began to surface, 16 kilometers from the plane’s last known coordinates.
Wreckage, debris, and luggage were first spotted, and transported to the nearest town of, Pangkalan Bun. Shortly after the discovery of the wreckage, the remains of the flights passengers and crew were witnessed floating in the ocean waters, 160 kilometers from Borneo island. The initial six victims of the crash were first observed by First Adm. Sigit Setiayanta, Naval Aviation Center commander at Surabaya Air Force base. The turbulent and choppy ocean waters were noted tho have hindered the retrieval efforts of rescue workers, as they attempted to repel down ropes suspended from aircraft. Waves as high as 2-meters were reported to have been crashing down on the rescue crew, before Navy ships were ordered in, to aid in the retrieval mission.
National Search and Rescue Director, SB Supriyadi, had been on the Naval ships and was reported to have witnessed a large portion of the wreckage in the clear, and relatively shallow waters, approximately 20 to 30 meters below the surface.
Graphic images of the wreck, depicting its lifeless victims, adrift and powerless, to the will of the ocean, were broadcast through a waiting room at, Surabaya airport, where friends and family of the lost passengers waited in vigil.
The final flight records and communications received from the aircraft stated that the pilots were fearful of the turbulent and bad weather. Four minutes later, after the plane’s pilots pleas for clearance to climb above the thick and looming cloud coverage were denied, due to heavy air traffic, the passenger jet vanished without a trace, emitting no distress signal. As of yet, no in-board flight logs or black boxes have been recovered from the crash.
Scott Hamilton, managing director of aviation consultancy Leeham Co., in regard to the autopsies of the airplanes victims, sated on his website:
“If death was due to blunt force trauma, this could suggest passengers were alive upon impact with the water. If death came from other circumstances, this could suggest an explosive decompression and in-flight break up occurred.”
The recent crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, is one of several tragic instances involving air travel in Southeast Asia. Earlier this year, in March, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished with 239 people aboard, as well as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July, which killed all 298 passengers and crew.