Families of AirAsia crash victims demand apology for negligence

Families of Air Asia victims waiting to meet Air Asia management at a local police headquarters in Surabaya yesterday. A private service was held in the city as a memorial to those aboard Flight QZ8501.
Families of Air Asia victims waiting to meet Air Asia management at a local police headquarters in Surabaya yesterday. A private service was held in the city as a memorial to those aboard Flight QZ8501.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

INDONESIA • Families of those killed in an AirAsia plane crash last year in Indonesia have demanded that the airline apologise for negligence after a probe showed faulty equipment contributed to the accident.

Flight QZ8501 plunged into the Java Sea in stormy weather on Dec 28 last year during what was supposed to be a routine flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

The crash killed 162 people.

Relatives of some of the passengers, AirAsia officials - including chief executive Tony Fernandes - and the head of Indonesia's search- and-rescue agency gathered yesterday at a police station in Surabaya, the country's second-biggest city, for a private ceremony to remember the dead.

It came just weeks after Indonesian investigators' final report showed a chronically faulty component in a rudder control system, poor maintenance and the pilots' inadequate response were major factors in the crash.

Ahead of the ceremony, an association set up by victims' relatives - to push for reform of Indonesia's beleaguered aviation sector - demanded an apology from AirAsia.

"We the families demand AirAsia apologise openly to victims' families for the negligence that has resulted in fatalities," said a statement from the group.

The statement added that the families were "surprised and shocked" when the report showed the chain of events that triggered the accident was set off by "negligence" with regard to the faulty component.

Mr Sunu Widyatmoko, chief executive of AirAsia's Indonesian affiliate, refused to comment on the accident report following the ceremony.

In an earlier news report by Indonesia's Jitu News, Mr Sunu was reported to have said that the memorial would be behind closed doors as a mark of respect to the bereaved.

"They wish to remember those who passed away (in the tragedy), so we will have it closed doors. It is only for the families of the victims," he was quoted as saying.

He also thanked the parties involved, including the media, for their efforts to locate the victims following the crash, The Rakyat Post reported on its news site.

The crash of the Airbus A320-200 was the first major setback for the Malaysia-based budget carrier after a spectacular 13-year run of success.

The families also demanded that the government stop AirAsia from flying the Surabaya to Singapore route, and called on Indonesian authorities to improve aviation safety following a series of air disasters in the country in the past year.

The Indonesian probe found the component, which had cracked soldering, suffered problems 23 times in the 12 months before the crash, and cited issues with maintenance.

During the ill-fated flight, the component malfunctioned several times, prompting the pilots to reset a computer system in a bid to fix it.

However, the plane's autopilot was disabled in the process, leading the crew to lose control.

Three months after the deadly crash, the National Search and Rescue Agency called off its search efforts. The bodies of 56 people were never recovered.

The crash was one of several aviation accidents in the sprawling archipelago over the past 12 months.

In August, a turbo-prop plane operated by Indonesian domestic carrier Trigana crashed in the remote eastern region of Papua during a short flight in bad weather, killing all 54 people on board.

And in June, an Indonesian military plane went down into a residential neighbourhood in the city of Medan, exploding in a fireball and killing 142 people.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Families of AirAsia crash victims demand apology for negligence'. Print Edition | Subscribe