Relatives of passengers on a missing AirAsia plane wept as they watched Indonesian searchers on television pulling bodies and wreckage from the sea off the coast of Borneo Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200 with 162 on board, lost contact with air traffic control early Sunday in bad weather en route from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
The navy initially said 40 bodies had been recovered, although media later quoted the head of the search and rescue agency as saying only three bodies had been retrieved.
The plane has yet to be found.
“My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ8501,” AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes tweeted.
“On behalf of AirAsia, my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.”
The airline said it was inviting family members to Surabaya, “where a dedicated team of care providers will be assigned to each family to ensure that all of their needs are met”.
Pictures of floating bodies were broadcast on TV, and relatives of the missing already gathered at a crisis center in Surabaya wept with heads in their hands, the report said. Several people collapsed in grief and were helped away.
About 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States have been involved in the search.
Investigators are focusing on the timing of the crew’s request to climb to a higher altitude to avoid bad weather as a possible factor behind the tragedy, a source close to the probe told Reuters.
Among the early lines of inquiry is whether the crew could have asked to ascend, or climbed on their own initiative in case of emergency, at an earlier stage, and what role storms in the area might have played.
The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, had not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.
Meanwhile, a second AirAsia jet ran into trouble after it overshot a runway while landing in the Philippines Tuesday, forcing those aboard to disembark by emergency slides, NBC News reported.
No injuries were reported in the hard landing of the plane in Kalibo, on the Philippine island of Panay.
“There was some turbulence but we didn’t expect that landing,” Jakarta-based journalist Jet Damazo Santos, who was on board the flight, told NBC.
“I didn’t even realize we overshot the runway until we saw grass outside the window.”
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