Debris & Bodies From AirAsia QZ8501 Found In Pacific Ocean

More than two days after it vanished from radar, debris from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was discovered floating in the Java Sea near Indonesia on Tuesday. Three bodies, presumed to be passengers from the missing plane, have been recovered from the water. Earlier reports said at least 40, or "dozens" of bodies have been recovered by the Indonesian navy, but government officials clarified that those numbers were misreported.

The head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, Bambang Soelistyo, confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday that only three bodies have been removed from the water. "Today we evacuated three bodies and they are now in the warship Bung Tomo," Soelistyo said, according to First Post. He reiterated that the earlier claims of dozens of bodies recovered was "miscommunication."

AirAsia officials said the debris was spotted in the Karimata Strait in the Java Sea, roughly 100 nautical miles southwest of the Indonesian city of Pangkalan Bun. Recovery operations are still underway, as officials continue to investigate the uncovered debris and search for larger pieces of the jet. According to local Indonesian newspapers, searchers first spotted a shadow on the ocean floor that looked like a plane. Lifeless bodies were reportedly floating near it. Officials believe the shadow seen by the search and rescue pilots is the jet's fuselage.

Airline officials released a brief statement Tuesday confirming the debris is from Flight QZ8501, closing the harrowing search for the ill-fated plane carrying 162 people to Singapore from the Indonesian city of Surabaya. Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Indonesia said on Tuesday:

We are sorry to be here today under these tragic circumstances. We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of those on board QZ8501. Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes added in a statement:

I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the well-being of the family members of those onboard QZ8501.
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According to Fox News, the Indonesian navy is currently attempting to retrieve the bodies from the water, though rescue operations are being hindered by large waves in the area. Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Director, SB Supriyadi, told the media that the bodies were not wearing life jackets. However, officials say search and rescue team members recovered what's believed to be an inflatable slide from the plane. Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency added that so far, only smaller pieces from Flight QZ8501 have been discovered.

When speaking to the media on Tuesday, Indonesia President Joko Widodo said he has instructed the search and rescue team to "focus on finding the passengers and crew." A spokesperson for the Indonesian navy added that its rescuers were "very busy now" with the recovery mission.

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Relatives of the victims waited at the airport in Surabaya were shocked on Tuesday when local Indonesian news channels broadcast images of the bodies floating in the Java Sea. The Agence France-Presse reported that many of the passengers' relatives became distraught, breaking into tears and collapsing onto the floor, overcome with grief. The news agency said at least two people were carried away on stretchers after fainting.

Channel News Asia later apologized for showing the graphic footage on live TV.

Malaysian Airlines, which endured two tragic fatal accidents in 2014, expressed its condolences and support in a statement:

As an airline that has recently experienced such great sadness, we stand in solidarity to offer our thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by this tragedy and with the team at AirAsia.

"To all relatives, I feel your loss," Indonesian President Widodo added in a public statement on Tuesday. "We all pray families will have strength to face this tragedy."Images: Getty Images (4)