AirAsia flight QZ8501: Body retrieved may be that of French co-pilot, says search official

Workers load the tail of AirAsia flight QZ8501 onto a truck at Kumai sea port, in Central Kalimantan on Feb 7, 2015, before they transport it to Jakarta. Indonesian divers have found a body believed to be French co-pilot Remi Plesel, who was steering
Workers load the tail of AirAsia flight QZ8501 onto a truck at Kumai sea port, in Central Kalimantan on Feb 7, 2015, before they transport it to Jakarta. Indonesian divers have found a body believed to be French co-pilot Remi Plesel, who was steering the plane when it crashed in December with 162 people onboard, an official said on Saturday. -- PHOTO:

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian divers have found a body believed to be French co-pilot Remi Plesel, who was steering an AirAsia plane when it crashed in December with 162 people onboard, an official said on Saturday.

Coordinator of the search and rescue effort S.B. Supriyadi said the body was retrieved from the front part of the fuselage during a search operation on Friday.

"It is likely the body of the French co-pilot, wearing uniform with three stripes on (the) shoulder," he told AFP, adding that the body is still being held onboard the Pacitan warship before being taken to land.

A formal confirmation will be given after the Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) team finish identifying the body, which is in poor condition, Mr Supriyadi said.

Indonesian investigators last month said Mr Plesel was flying the plane before it crashed, rather than Captain Iriyanto, an experienced former fighter pilot.

Flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather on Dec 28 in the Java sea during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Divers also found three bodies inside the main body of the plane on Friday and another three bodies near the fuselage today, bringing a total number of dead retrieved to 101, Mr Supriyadi said.

Rescue services are still trying to lift the fuselage from the seabed using giant inflatable bags after earlier attempts failed.