Indonesian Lieutenant Airman Tri Wobowo, a pilot who was among the first to identify debris from AirAsia flight QZ8501, reported that some victims found in the wreckage appeared to have held hands as the plane crashed into the ocean.
“There are seven to eight people,” he said. “Three [of them] again hold hands.”
On Thursday morning, the first bodies returned to Juanda Airport near Surabaya, Indonesia. One woman found with a small boy arrived in a wooden casket with purple flowers on top. The Daily Mail reports other bodies will remain on a ship until the severe weather clears. Officials asked family members to provide DNA for identification while others also handed over photos and descriptions of special markings on loved ones.
Fisherman Mohammed Taha, 38, spotted debris before anyone else.
“I found a lot of debris — small and large — in the Tujuh islands,” he said. “The largest was four metres long and two metres wide. They were red coloured with white silver. It looked like the AirAsia colours.”
The navy recovered 40 bodies on Tuesday, along with a plane door and oxygen tanks. Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and America provided a total of 30 ships and 21 aircraft. Authorities canceled rescue operations on Thursday due to severe storms. Pilots spotted debris 100 miles off the Indonesian coast, but these severe storms may “have already dispersed floating wreckage more than 30 miles from the crash site.” Local media outlets actually aired live video of dead bodies floating in the water, which caused people to “collapse in grief.”
“My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ8501,” AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes tweeted. “On behalf of AirAsia, my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.”