AirAsia flight QZ8501: Families of passengers get offer to board naval ship to plane's search location

Rescue team members in a boat communicate with other members of the team on the deck of the Search and Rescue (SAR) ship KN Purworejo during a search operation for passengers onboard AirAsia Flight QZ8501 in the Java Sea on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REU
Rescue team members in a boat communicate with other members of the team on the deck of the Search and Rescue (SAR) ship KN Purworejo during a search operation for passengers onboard AirAsia Flight QZ8501 in the Java Sea on Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SURABAYA - Family members of passengers on the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501 have received an offer to board an Indonesian naval ship to visit the plane's search location.

This is to "to lessen their sorrow and sense of loss", said Indonesia's armed forces chief Moeldoko on Monday.

They will be ferried from Surabaya, where the AirAsia crisis centre for relatives is located, to Pangkalan Bun via military flight.

Speaking at a press conference at the East Java police headquarters after he visited relatives at the crisis centre, General Moeldoko said he assured family members that the armed forces "is working hard (to find bodies and the plane wreckage) with friendly countries".

"I told them to have trust in the armed forces that we are working hard," he said.

Indonesia's police chief Sutarman said he also promised relatives that all bodies recovered will be identified.

"We are working to identify all bodies recovered, no matter the condition they arrive in, and to release them to their families," said Gen Sutarman.

The Disaster Victim Identification team at the Bhayangkara hospital, 100m away from the crisis centre and where all recovered bodies will be taken to, now comprises 260 local and foreign forensic experts, he said.

While fingerprint identification will take "just a matter of minutes", other methods of identification such as through dental records and DNA testing will take longer, he said.

This is the first time both military and police chiefs are visiting relatives of the 162 people on board the ill-fated flight, which crashed in the Java Sea on Dec 28 while en route from Surabaya to Singapore.

A total of 37 bodies have been recovered, with 34 of those brought to Bhayangkara hospital. Only nine have been released to their families. The other 25 remain in cold storage here, waiting to be identified by forensic experts working round the clock.

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