Indonesia navy: Up to 40 bodies retrieved and counting

QZ8501 AirAsia’s Surabaya-Singapore flight carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members on board went missing on Sunday.

The Airbus 320-200 took off from Surabaya in Java, Indonesia, at 5.20am local time (6.20am Malaysian time) and was due to arrive in Singapore two hours later, but it lost contact with air traffic control.

Search and rescue (SAR) efforts have since been launched by the Indonesian authorities.

The first reports state that the plane allegedly crashed near Belitung Island, off the coast of Sumatra.

Malaysiakini brings you the live updates of information as it comes in.

Latest developments

  • Debris sighted in search area
  • Missing plane yet to be fitted with tracking tech
  • US Navy sending ship to help
  • Search area has been expanded and revised


TV channel apologises for gory footage

5.46pm: Indonesia-based television channel TVOne apologises for airing visuals of floating dead bodies at the debris site of AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

The airing of close-up visuals of the dead sparked heavy criticism of the television station. reports that family members camped at Surabaya airport broke into hysterical wails on seeing the images.

“When graphic news images of a body were shown on TV screens set up in family waiting areas, dozens burst into hysterical wailing.

“At least two people fainted and were carried out to waiting ambulances,” says the report.

Tens of bodies have been retrieved

5.38pm: Indonesia’s warship Bun Tomo which retrieved the first bodies earlier today, has collected up to 40 of the deceased.

A navy spokesperson says more are being recovered from the sea, according to Channel News Asia.

Meanwhile, say some of the bodies retrieved are found with their hands held together.

‘Plane may have tried emergency braking on water’

5.18pm: Indonesian officials indicate that they may have found the main wreckage of AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo says the search and rescue operation has spotted a “shadow” on the sea bed that resembled an aircraft.

“The (Indonesian) air force’s Hercules found an object described as a shadow at the bottom of the sea in the form of a plane,” he is quoted as saying by AFP.

He says the site is around 160km south west of Pangkalan Bun, a town in Central Kalimantan on Borneo Island.

Meanwhile, quotes a Garuda Indonesia pilot saying that the shadow appears as the aircraft may have attempted to make an emergency landing on the water but failed, plunging sharply in a dive.

“If the pilot made an effort for an emergency landing on the water, even if it failed,  it opens the possibility that some may have survived,” Jeffrey Andrian is quoted as saying.

AirAsia CEO sends his condolences

4.51pm: AirAsia group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes says he is rushing to Surabaya, Indonesia after officials announced that debris of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has been found.

“My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501.

“On behalf of AirAsia, my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am,” he says in a Twitter posting.

Meanwhile, Indonesian news portals report that family members have become hysterical on watching visuals of the SAR operations on television.

First bodies from QZ8501 crash retrieved

4.33pm: The Indonesian navy has retrieved the first bodies from the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 debris site.

Indonesia’s ship KRI Bung Tomo has retrieved three of six bodies in the vicinity, reports

“More than one body have been found… the recovery is ongoing,” Indonesia’s search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo is quoted as saying.

The site is approximately 190km south west of Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan.

Meanwhile, Indonesian officials say 21 divers have been deployed to the site.

Indonesia does not have any submersible vessels, but officials note that it will seek to loan them from neighbouring countries if necessary, reports

Debris and bodies found

4.10pm: An Indonesian Air Force co-pilot says he spotted dozens of floating bodies after Jakarta announced it found the debris of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, reports Kompas.

“We thought the passengers were still alive and waved at us for help. But when we approached closer (we saw) that they were already dead,” says Tri Wibowo who is on board a Hercules C130.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said earlier he was fairly certain the debris is from the missing plane, according to Reuters.

“I am 95 percent sure that the location pictured is debris suspected to be from the aircraft,” he says.

Debris ‘confirmed’

3.29pm: Several Indonesian media reports say that Jakarta has confirmed the debris of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has been found.

Indonesian Transport Ministry acting director-general of air transportation Djoko Murjatmodjo said the recovery process will now commence in the region of where the debris have been found.

“It has been confirmed that it is debris from an aircraft bearing red and white colours,” he says, according to the Jakarta Post.

3.14pm: Search and rescue teams are finding more and more objects in the search zone.

According to Reuters, the Indonesian air force has spotted what appears to be life vests, luggages, debris and suspected bodies in the Java Sea, off the west coast of Kalimantan.

However, CNN reports that officials are concerned about currents which may cause the objects to spread before the ships arrive for closer confirmation.

2.43pm: The red and white debris sighted off Kalimantan in the Java Sea is “likely” from the AirAsia Flight QZ8501, Reuters quotes an Indonesian official as saying.

“We are checking if it’s debris from the aircraft. It’s probably from the body of the aircraft,” says Djoko Murjatmodjo, who is Indonesian Transport Ministry acting director-general of air transportation.

Djoko added that based on the size and colour of the debris, it is likely to be part of the missing jet.

Object ‘like that of human body’ sighted

2.37pm: The SAR team reports that an object “indicated to be like that of a human body” has been sighted in the Karimata Straits near West Kalimantan.

The sighting was made from a Hercules A319 aircraft, reports

2pm: One of the SAR operations commanders, Dwi Putranto, says that there are 10 big objects and other smaller items in the sighted debris.

“It is said that there is one long yellow object, which looks like a tank. There is one obvious, white shiny object. If it has been in the waters for long, the colours would have faded, but this (object) was very obvious,” says Dwi, according to

Debris sighted in search area

1.30pm: Debris of about two metres wide with some in red and yellow, red and black colours have been sighted in the waters off Belinyu, Bangka, near the search site and helicopters are now heading towards the location, and report.

Bangka Belitung governor Rustam Effendi confirms the sighting.

Rustam also says that a fisherman had reported it but the high waves were making it difficult to get to the place, reports states that a SAR operations team has received recorded pictures of the debris sighted.

12.49pm: The search and rescue operation receives reports of a fire at an island located in the search zone for AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

According to CNN and CBS, two aircraft have been dispatched to investigate if the fire is linked to the missing aircraft.

This comes after the search effort is expanded to cover coastal land this morning, after two days of futile search.

Missing plane yet to be fitted with tracking tech

11.30am: AirAsia was upgrading its fleet of short-haul jets to make them easier to track, but hadn’t modified the aircraft that disappeared on Sunday, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The report further states that the budget airline is an early adopter of a dedicated tracking service, ahead of an industry push to comprehensively follow planes in flight.

US sends its best search vessel to help

9.54am: The USS Sampson, a US destroyer, is expected to arrive later today to help search for the missing AirAsia aircraft.

In a statement issued from Yokosuka, Japan, the US military said that the US Pacific Command had ordered the Sampson to the “general search area” in response to a request from the government of Indonesia.

“The US Navy is working closely with the government of Indonesia to identify additional surface or airborne capabilities that can best assist their search efforts,” the US military said.

The Indonesian government had on Monday sent a diplomatic note to the US Embassy in Jakarta with the request for help, the US State Department said.

The Sampson is part of the US Seventh Fleet, under the US Pacific Command, and is part of an independent deployment to the Western Pacific.

Search area expanded

9.15am: The search and rescue efforts (SAR) have now been detailed into 13 zones. Indonesian authorities say that all areas are being combed, including on land, reports.

9am: RMN chief Abdul Aziz says the navy’s search vessel KD Lekir has entered the search site zone.

7.45am: Royal Malaysian Navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar tweets that the search area has been expanded and revised.

This entry was posted in QZ8501. Bookmark the permalink.