AirAsia flight QZ8501: Search ops expanded to Central Sulawesi after body parts found

Indonesian divers and rescue personnel from the National Search and Rescue Agency recover a body from the underwater wreckage of the ill-fated Air Asia flight QZ8501 in the Java sea on Feb 2, 2015. The search for victims and wreckage of the flig
Indonesian divers and rescue personnel from the National Search and Rescue Agency recover a body from the underwater wreckage of the ill-fated Air Asia flight QZ8501 in the Java sea on Feb 2, 2015. The search for victims and wreckage of the flight, which crashed on Dec 28, 2014, has been expanded northwards to the Makassar Strait in Donggala regency, Central Sulawesi. -- PHOTO: AFP

PALU/MAKASSAR, Indonesia (Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - The search for victims and wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed on Dec 28 during its journey from Surabaya to Singapore, has been expanded northwards to the Makassar Strait in Donggala regency, Central Sulawesi.

The move came after fishermen in Pinrang regency, South Sulawesi, reportedly found two bones thought to be from human feet and more aircraft parts on Wednesday.

The bones were found by different fishermen in separate places along the Suppa district coastline, Pinrang, some 950km from the site in the Karimata Strait where the plane with 162 people on board had crashed.

Fauzan Mahmud of the joint search and rescue team said the first bone was found at about 8am local time not far from the beach. The second bone was found at about 10am the same day in Wiringtasi subdistrict, Suppa. An Adidas trainer was attached to the bone.

"One bone found this morning paired with (the other). Both were found with trainers of the same brand, black Adidas with a yellow base," Fauzan said, adding that the bones were found 15 km apart. The bones were being flown to Surabaya for identification.

A fisherman in Toale subdistrict, Donggala, meanwhile, discovered on Monday parts of an overhead cabin locker suspected to be from the plane. Other fishermen said they had found many similar pieces while searching for fish.

National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Palu branch operational section head George LM Randang said the finds would be the basis for a new search.

"As the stream continues to move to the north, the search will most likely expand as far as the Central Sulawesi region," George said.

According to him, Basarnas Palu had set up a coordination post in the Pasangkayu region, West Sulawesi, to support the team that was currently sweeping Majene waters with the Makassar search and rescue team.

Based on Lamori's information, Basarnas Palu and the Donggala Water Police coordinated to search the region. They found parts of an aircraft ceiling and doors.

The findings were to be sent to Surabaya, East Java, for examination.

Basarnas Makassar head Roki Azikin said although all body parts and aircraft wreckage had been found by the fishermen, the joint search and rescue team would continue to search waters from Majene to Mamuju in West Sulawesi to the north and to Pinrang and Pare-pare in South Sulawesi to the south.

"We're currently focusing on the south, which is on Pinrang and Pare-pare," said Roki, adding that he was unsure how long the search would go on.

However, not all body parts sent from South Sulawesi to the East Java Police's Disaster and Victim Identification (DVI) unit are from the bodies of victims on the AirAsia flight.

"Today, we determined that one body part labelled B007 is not one of the plane's victims, but is instead from a primate," DVI team chief Senior Commander Budiyono said as quoted by kompas.com on Wednesday.

So far, the DVI has identified 68 of 78 bodies recovered from the aircraft.