AirAsia flight QZ8501

Indonesia ends search for remains of AirAsia crash victims

Retrieval operations from Airbus disaster come to a close, despite relatives' pleas to continue

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 March, 2015, 12:58am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 March, 2015, 7:29am

Indonesia has called off the search for the remaining victims of the AirAsia plane crash in the Java Sea, officials said yesterday.

All 162 people aboard the Airbus A320-200 died when it went down on December 28 while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, to Singapore. So far, 106 bodies have been recovered, with the last three pulled out from the underwater wreckage last week. Some bodies were found off Sulawesi, about 1,000km east of the crash site.

Tatang Zainudin, the operations director of the National Search and Rescue Agency, said the final retrieval operations ended on Tuesday night.

The main search and rescue operation had been called off on March 3, but small-scale efforts continued for two weeks at the request of the victims' families.

Zainudin said the agency planned to take family members to the crash site next week.

An Indonesian man whose daughter-in-law is among 56 people unaccounted for said his family had accepted the "sad reality" her body would never be found.

Hadi Widjaja, whose son and daughter-in-law were on the flight, praised rescuers for doing a "good job".

His son has been found but his daughter-in-law remains missing. He said her family realised it was time to move on.

"Her parents and my family have let her go in peace. We have to accept this sad reality," he said.

"The rescuers spent three months on this search operation," he said, adding that his family appreciated their work".

Eka Santoso, whose brother, sister-in-law and their two children were on the plane, said he believed if the search operation was extended, more bodies could be found, but he had accepted the decision to end it.

The body of his brother has been retrieved, but his three other relatives remain missing.

"I have already asked AirAsia and the search and rescue agency to extend the search, but I cannot do more," said the 53-year-old, adding that he would just have to "accept that they are no longer searching for our loved ones".

The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has so far shed little light on what caused the flight to crash, or what occurred in the moments before the tragedy.

It has reported that the plane climbed rapidly in an area of towering storm clouds before crashing, and that the co-pilot was at the controls, rather than the more experienced pilot.

The plane's black box flight data recorders have been recovered, and should provide vital clues for investigators.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse