United States Joins Air Asia 8501 Recovery Effort
WASHINGTON – The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth has joined the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson in the Java Sea to assist in the Indonesian-led international search-and-recovery effort for downed AirAsia Flight 8501, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued yesterday.
The ongoing efforts to find the flight data and cockpit voice recorder, the “Black Box” information continues, but efforts have been hampered by rough seas and weather in the search area.
The National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) Republic of Indonesia confirms that they have recovered 30 remains from the search area. The search process is still underway with the Russian SAR team joining the mission, strengthening the operation led by BASARNAS. Weather in the SAR area for tomorrow (Sunday) is forecasted to be much better with waves likely to decrease and remain at 2-3 metres.
Weather Hampers Search Efforts
The officials have also announced that sonar equipment detected two large objects on the ocean floor which may be the wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501.
The 12 remains consisting of 9 male and 3 female arrived today at Bhayangkara Hospital, Surabaya to undergo the identification process.
In addition, the Disaster Victim Identification Police Department of Republic of Indonesia (DVI POLRI) today confirmed two remains of QZ 8501 passengers which were identified as Hendra Gunawan Syawal (male) and The Meiji Thejakusuma (female). The remains were handed over earlier today at Bhayangkara Hospital, Surabaya by Chief Executive Officer AirAsia Indonesia, Sunu Widyatmoko.
To date, DVI POLRI has identified a total of six passengers while the 24 remaining remains are still being identified. DVI POLRI also confirms that the remains identification process will be supported by DVI experts from Singapore and South Korea.
AirAsia would like to take this opportunity to urge the public seeking progress on the search and evacuation and identification process of QZ 8501 passengers to refer solely to official information from BASARNAS and DVI Polri.
This morning the Sampson’s commander, Navy Cmdr. Steven M. Foley, discussed current search efforts with ABC’s “This Week” weekend news program host Martha Raddatz.
“We’ve been searching using lookouts, using optical search equipment and scanning the horizon and using our helicopters in tandem to search a wide area,” Foley told Raddatz today.
“The weather has been a little rough with scattered thunderstorms,” the commander said. “The seas have been about two to four feet, increasing to about four to six feet when the rain swells come in. And we’ve been operating in three specified areas that the Indonesian authorities have assigned to us.
“And you have to remember,” Foley added, “this is their search effort and we’re here to assist.”
Ships are being employed to search for the downed aircraft’s black box and the helicopters are looking for debris, Foley told Raddatz. Rigid-hull inflatable boats are also participating in the search effort, he added.
The Indonesian government requested U.S. assistance to help in the search for Air Asia Flight 8501, which disappeared Dec. 28 during its route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore with 162 passengers and crew aboard.
The San Diego-based USS Sampson, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was deployed Dec. 29 to assist in the search efforts for the Airbus A320-216 aircraft, according to a U.S. Navy news release. Since then, searchers have found debris and passenger remains from the aircraft, which apparently crashed during its flight during bad weather.
Remains, Debris Found
The Sampson arrived in the Java Sea search area on Dec. 30, according to a U.S. Navy release. Later that day, the Sampson’s helicopters and Indonesian navy assets discovered aircraft debris.
The Sampson’s crew also removed six remains from the sea Jan. 1 and six others Jan. 2, according to a U.S. Navy release.
“We find great gratification in being able to assist the Indonesian government in this ongoing effort and to bring closure to the family and friends of the passengers of AirAsia Flight 8501,” Foley told Raddatz.