AirAsia flight QZ8501: None of the bodies was wearing life jacket, says Indonesia search official

Two bodies from AirAsia flight QZ8501 arriving at Lanudal Airbase in Surabaya on Dec 31, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Two bodies from AirAsia flight QZ8501 arriving at Lanudal Airbase in Surabaya on Dec 31, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

JAKARTA - None of the bodies found so far in the hunt for the doomed Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 were wearing life jackets, an official of Indonesia's search and rescue agency said on Wednesday, contradicting earlier reports that one of the bodies had a life jacket on.

“There was a victim, a man, and a life jacket. They were found apart. He was not wearing a life jacket,” Basarnas operations deputy, Major-General Tatang Zaenuddin, was quoted as saying by a report on Detik.com news website.

“So far, none of the bodies had life jackets on.”

Earlier, the official was cited as saying a body recovered from the crashed plane was wearing a life jacket, raising questions about how the disaster unfolded.

"This morning, we recovered a total of four bodies and one of them was wearing a life jacket," Tatang Zaenudin said according to Reuters. He declined to speculate on what the find might mean.

The fact that one person put on a life jacket would appear to indicate those on board had at least some time before the aircraft hit the water, or after it hit the water and before it sank.

And yet the pilots did not issue a distress signal. The plane disappeared after it failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic.

A pilot who works for a Gulf carrier said the life jacket indicated the cause of the crash was not “catastrophic failure”.

Instead, the plane could have stalled and then come down, possibly because its instruments iced up and gave the pilots inaccurate readings. “There was time. It means the thing didn’t just fall out of the sky,” said the pilot, who declined to be identified.He said it could take a minute for a plane to come down from 30,000 feet and the pilots could have experienced “tunnel vision ... too overloaded” to send a distress call.

“The first train of thought when you get into a situation like that is to fly the aircraft.”

Most of those on board were Indonesians. No survivors have been found.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr F. H. Bambang Soelistyo, chief of the Basarnas search and rescue agency, said that one female body recovered on Wednesday was dressed in the uniform of an air stewardess.

The other three bodies retrieved on Wednesday were male, officials said.

Together with the two female and one male body recoved on Tuesday, it brings the total number of bodies recovered so far to seven - three female and four male.

Some of the bodies were fully clothed, which could indicate the Airbus A320-200 was intact when it hit the water. That would support a theory that it suffered an aerodynamic stall.

Rescuers believe they have found the plane on the ocean floor off Borneo, after sonar detected a large, dark object beneath waters near where debris and bodies were found on the surface.

Ships and planes had been scouring the Java Sea for flight QZ8501 since Sunday, when it lost contact during bad weather about 40 minutes into its flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM REUTERS

AirAsia QZ8501 banner