ABAYA, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 30: Relatives of passengers on AirAsia flight QZ 8501 react to the breaking news of debris and bodies being found on December 30, 2014.
Three more bodies were pulled from the Java Sea on Wednesday, including one wearing a flight attendant uniform. The discovery followed the retrieval Tuesday of three bodies from the debris site of AirAsia Flight 8501.
After a three day search in the aqua waters off Indonesia for the 162 victims, debris was first spotted Tuesday by a search team not far from where the plane dropped off the radar screen. Searchers found bodies, a life jacket, an emergency exit door, a suitcase and other small items about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the plane's last known coordinates.
The bodies pulled from the site so far include three males and three females, one of which is the flight attendant, the chief of Indonesia's Search and Rescue Agency Henry Bambang Soelistyo told local media.
The water where the victims and debris were discovered is the Karimata Strait, which is clear and relatively shallow at 65 to 100 feet (20 to 30 meters). First Adm. Sigit Setiayanta, commander of the Naval Aviation Center at Surabaya Air Force base, told reporters the six corpses were spotted about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Central Kalimantan province.
#QZ8501 UPDATE: Search divers unable to set out due to bad weather, search official says http://t.co/fU1QeMQPFC pic.twitter.com/MYyrmSEmZy— Channel NewsAsia (@ChannelNewsAsia) December 31, 2014
The search agency told local media Wednesday sonar imagery appears to show the aircraft upside down on the ocean floor less than two miles (3.5 kilometers) from the debris field. It follows reports Tuesday of the spotting of a shadow consistent with a plane in the shallow water.
CNN reports a search official, who goes by the single name Hernato, said it is unclear whether the aircraft is in one piece or broken apart on the floor of the Java Sea.
#QZ8501 UPDATE: Indonesia SAR agency says sonar image appears to show aircraft upside down on ocean floor— Jason Ng (@ByJasonNg) December 31, 2014
Day four of the search and retrieval effort is being hampered by high winds and strong currents while heavy rain grounded the search helicopters.
"We are in a wait and see. Weather is bad currently. High tides and heavy rains. Every element is now in their position ready to make a move when weather improves," Soelistyo said.
Images of the debris and a bloated body shown on Indonesian television Tuesday sent a spasm of anguish through the room at the Surabaya airport where relatives awaited news about their missing loved ones.
When TV broadcast an image of a half-naked man floating in the water, a shirt partially covering his head, many of the family members screamed and wailed uncontrollably. One middle-aged man collapsed and had to be carried out on a stretcher.
"I know the plane has crashed, but I cannot believe my brother and his family are dead," said Ifan Joko, who lost seven family members, three of them children, as they traveled to Singapore to ring in the new year. "We still pray they are alive."
About 125 family members were planning to travel Wednesday to Pangkalan Bun to start identifying their loved ones. Body bags and coffins have been prepared at three hospitals there, while 75 ambulances are on standby at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya to transport bodies to hospital for forensics and DNA identification, according to Channel News Asia.
Some of the reported 75 ambulances parked outside Surabaya Juanda airport awaiting AirAsia victims. @ChannelNewsAsia pic.twitter.com/FUaE8TNYZv— Steven Clark (@Tajima92) December 31, 2014
The airliner's disappearance halfway through a two-hour flight between Surabaya, Indonesia, and Singapore triggered an international search for the aircraft involving ten countries, dozens of planes, ships and helicopters. A number of elite military divers also joined the search in the shallow water.
It is still unclear what brought the plane down, yet weather is thought to have played a factor due to the final request to air traffic control by the pilot to change course. Once the plane is located and its cockpit voice and flight data recorders, or black boxes, are recovered officials can start determining what caused the crash.
Day 4 of #QZ8501 search focused on 4 sectors of 28x56 nautical miles: Malaysia@ChiefofNavy http://t.co/fU1QeMQPFC pic.twitter.com/CJqhiqjBZe— Channel NewsAsia (@ChannelNewsAsia) December 31, 2014
AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes, the airline's founder and a constant presence in Indonesia since the tragedy started unfolding, said he planned to travel to the recovery site on Wednesday and is working with airports and hospitals to prepare for the bodies of the victims.
"I have apologized profusely for what they are going through," he said of his contact with relatives. "I am the leader of this company, and I have to take responsibility. That is why I'm here. I'm not running away from my obligations."
I hope to fly to evacuation site to thank everyone for putting in so much effort in finding the site. And keep everyone informed.— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 31, 2014
Malaysia-based AirAsia's loss comes on top of the still-unsolved disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March with 239 people aboard, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine, which killed all 298 passengers and crew.
Tags: DEBRIS, FLIGHT 8501, US & World, WORLD