AirAsia flight QZ8501: S'pore Navy vessel RSS Persistence finds 1 body, 5th large object found

One body has been found by Singapore Navy vessel RSS Persistence, Indonesia's search agency Basarnas has said, bringing the officially confirmed total number of bodies found to 31. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
One body has been found by Singapore Navy vessel RSS Persistence, Indonesia's search agency Basarnas has said, bringing the officially confirmed total number of bodies found to 31. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PANGKALAN BUN/JAKARTA - One body has been found by Singapore Navy vessel RSS Persistence, Indonesia's search agency Basarnas has said, while United State Navy ship USS Sampson has brought three others to the Indonesian town of Pangkalan Bun.

This brings the officially confirmed total number of bodies found to 34.

At a press conference convened on Sunday morning, a week after the AirAsia plane lost contact with air controllers, Basarnas revealed the finding, as well as that of a fifth large object on the seabed with dimensions of 9.8m by 1.1m by 0.4m.

However, Basarnas chief Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo said that the tides in the spot they are focusing on are still not good. A team of divers that came down to an area near the largest object was found reported that visibility level towards the sea bottom was zero, due to lots of mud deposits.

“They managed to go down but the visibility at the sea bottom was zero, it was dark and the seabed was muddy, with currents of three to five knots,” he told reporters, adding that heavy rain and big waves were continuing to hamper the rescue effort.“For that reason, the diving efforts must be temporarily stopped. We’ll try to deploy an ROV (remotely-operated underwater vehicle),” he said.

But the remote operating vehicle mission is being delayed as they can only work if the undercurrent speed is below 1 knot. The speed down there is now 3 knots to 5 knots, he said.

KRI Bung Tomo, a main Indonesian vessel that has been helping with sonar detection work, has been sent home and is replaced by two vessels: KRI Usman Harun and KRI Frans Kaisepo, which also has sonar beaming equipment.

The naming of the KRI Usman Harun had last year caused controversy as it was named after one of two marines responsible for a fatal bombing in Singapore's Orchard Road in 1965.

Mr Soelistyo gave a breakdown of the search fleet today: 6 fixed wing planes (4 from Indonesia, one each from South Korea and Russia), 14 helicopters (10 from indonesia, two from Singapore and two from the US) and 27 ships - 16 from Indonesia (including two tankers to help with logistics and fuel), four from Singapore, three from Malaysia, two from the US and two from Japan.

Earlier, Metro TV reported a search pilot who had returned from the scene as saying that three bodies had been found 108 nautical miles off Pangkalan Bun - the same area where the first body was found on the third day. These 3 bodies have been brought to Pangkalan Bun.

The multinational team searching for the wreck of an AirAsia passenger jet was hoping a break in the weather at the crash site would give them a "window of opportunity" on Sunday to find the plane's black box and recover the bodies of more victims.

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