Divers retrieve 100th corpse from Java Sea jet crash

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Divers yesterday recovered three bodies from December's air disaster in the Java Sea. Added to four retrieved on Friday, they bring the total to 100. An additional 62 victims remain to be recovered.

The crashed aircraft, photographed in April.
Image: Oka Sudiatmika.

There were no survivors when Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed on December 28. The six-year-old Airbus A320-200 was 40 minutes from Juanda International Airport with 155 passengers and seven crew, bound for Singapore's Changi International Airport. Most were Indonesians, with three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Brit and one French person on board.

One of the latest bodies was a uniformed man strapped into a cockpit seat, and presumed to be either Indonesian Pilot Iriyanto or French co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel. Underwater currents have complicated recovery of the other body from the cockpit. Efforts to retrieve the entire aircraft last month were abandoned. Some bodies have been found roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the crash site, floating near Sulawesi.

Iriyanto and Plessel had over 8,000 hours experience between them. Iriyanto has a decade of experience training other pilots, and previous employers include the air force. Their actions have come under scrutiny as the National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) investigates.

A ship carries the aircraft's recovered tail.
Image: Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, US Navy.

The aircraft entered an excessively steep climb before stalling, the NTSC said last month. It took three minutes for the plane to reach the water, during which time the flight crew tried to regain control. Bloomberg claims the flight crew switched off computers designed to aid them after they issued alerts. AirAsia has declined to comment pending the NTSC investigation, which is expected to continue for several months.

The Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics suggests weather caused the disaster, suggesting ice led to engine failure. NTSC head investigator Marjono Siswosuwarno last month reported satellite data showed storms as high as 44,000ft. The plane was attempting to avoid storms in the minutes before contact was lost.

The National Search and Rescue Agency has over 60 divers working to retrieve the bodies.