Jakarta/Singapore: Doomed AirAsia jet's fuselage was found in the Java Sea today, raising hopes of retrieving the missing bodies of the 162 people killed in the tragedy, as investigators downloaded the contents of black box recorders and were likely to crack the crash's mystery soon.
The main fuselage of the crashed AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was found by a Singaporean Navy vessel. Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said he hoped that locating the main wreckage of the Airbus A320-200 could help bring "some form of closure" to families of victims.
"Chief of Navy (Singapore) RADM Lai Chung Han just informed me that one of Singapore Armed Forces ships, the MV Swift Rescue, has located the fuselage of the AirAsia plane in the Java Sea," Ng said on Facebook.
The words "now" and "everyone" are visible in the photos, apparently from AirAsia's motto "Now Everyone Can Fly" painted on the plane's exterior.
"Images taken by the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) show part of the wing and words on the fuselage. We have informed Basarnas (The Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency, who can now begin recovery operations," he said.
"The accident is a tragic event resulting in the loss of many lives. I hope that with the fuselage located, some form of closure can come to the families of the victims to ease their grief," Singapore's Defence Minister added.
Indonesia's national search and rescue chief Bambang Soelistyo said divers would head to the fuselage tomorrow.
"It is already dark so we will carry out the dive tomorrow morning with the target to find the victims which may still be around it or trapped in the body. If the divers have any difficulty, the next step will then be to lift the body and the wing," Soelistyo said.
He said two more bodies were found today, taking the total number of corpses recovered so far to 50.
Finding the fuselage is seen as crucial as most of the victims are believed to be still trapped inside.
The sonar on board the MV Swift Rescue detected the wreckage of the plane that crashed on December 28 en route from Indonesia's Surabaya city to Singapore about 2km from where the tail was found earlier. The wreckage with wings was about 26 metres long.
The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, retrieved from the bottom of the sea this week, were being analysed by the experts.
Investigators say they have successfully downloaded the contents of both devices. But an Indonesian official, however, cautioned that interpreting the information requires much more time.
After the download, investigators should have "a pretty good idea within a couple of days" of what happened aboard the plane, Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general of the US Department of Transportation, said.