Jakarta: AirAsia Tuesday confirmed that the debris spotted in the Java Sea, is from the missing flight QZ8501, even as three bodies confirmed to be those of passengers in the ill-fated plane were retrieved.
"AirAsia Indonesia regrets to inform that The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (Basarna) confirmed that the debris found earlier today is indeed from QZ8501, the flight that had lost contact with air traffic control Dec 28," the airline said in an online statement.
The debris of the aircraft were found in the Karimata Strait, around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan province in Borneo island.
“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," Sunu Widyatmoko, chief executive officer of AirAsia Indonesia, said, adding that "our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues”.
“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 well-being of the family members of those on board QZ8501,” Tony Fernandes, group chief executive officer of AirAsia, said.
Flight QZ 8501 lost contact with the air control tower 42 minutes after taking off from Indonesia's Surabaya city for Singapore early Sunday morning.
The aircraft, an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC, was carrying 162 passengers and crew on board -- 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans and one person each from Malaysia, Singapore, Britain and France.
Captain Iriyanto and First Officer Remi Emmanuel Plesel were the two pilots aboard the jet along with four cabin crew members - Wanti Setiawati, Khairunnisa Haidar Fauzi, Oscar Desano and Wismoyo Ari Prambudi - and technician Saiful Rakhmad.
AirAsia Indonesia will be inviting family members to Surabaya, where a dedicated team of care providers will be assigned to each family to ensure that all of their needs are met.
Counsellors, religious and spiritual personnel have also been invited to the family centre to provide any necessary services.
Earlier in the day, three out of the six bodies found in the Java Sea, confirmed as passengers of flight QZ8501, were recovered by a rescue team.
Bambang Sulistyo, head of Basarna, confirmed that the bodies and debris, suspected to be from the missing AirAsia plane that lost contact with the air control tower 42 minutes after taking off from Indonesia's Surabaya city for Singapore Sunday morning, were spotted in the waters of Karimata Strait, west of Kalimantan island, Indonesia's Antara news agency reported.
Of the six spotted bodies of the victims, three were reportedly retrieved by an Indonesian warship, KRI Bung Tomo.
The bodies were taken to Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan province in Borneo island.
"A CN-235 aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force spotted debris floating in the waters," Soelistyo said.
A C-130 aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force spotted another metal object floating in the water.
A Hercules aircraft also spotted a shadow, presumably resembling the shape of an aircraft submerged in water.
Soelistyo said that the KRI Bung Tomo spotted an object, probably an emergency exit door of an aircraft.
The ship, with the assistance of a helicopter, then conducted a search operation and recovered the emergency exit door.
Late Tuesday, Basarna deployed 21 divers to join in the search operation for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 in the Java Sea.
"Some 21 divers comprising 11 Indonesian navy personnel and 10 rescue team members will search the AirAsia debris site," Antara quoted Soelistyo as saying.
He said that the divers would search 25 to 30 metres inside the sea in an area around the Karimata Strait, west of Kalimantan island where the AirAsia plane had gone off the radar
So far, the agency has covered 95 percent of the debris site in the Karimata Strait near Pangkalanbun, central Kalimantan province in Borneo island.
"Findings indicate that 95 percent of the location has been searched and the debris and objects recovered so far reportedly belonged to the AirAsia aircraft," Soelistyo said.