Official: Sonar detects wreckage from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 on sea floor – CNN

(CNN)[Breaking news update 1:04 a.m. ET]

Search teams have found a seventh body believed to be from AirAsia flight QZ8501, an Indonesian official said Wednesday.

[Breaking news update 12:02 a.m. ET]

Families of people aboard AirAsia Flight QZ8501 have been briefed by officials that sonar technology has “spotted the plane on sea floor,” a relative of some of the passengers told CNN on Wednesday. The man, who said he lost seven relatives and friends on the flight, told CNN that families are still wanting and expecting regular and full updates from authorities.

[Breaking news update 10:55 p.m. ET]

Indonesian searchers using sonar equipment have located wreckage from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 at the bottom of the Java Sea, a search and rescue official told CNN on Wednesday. At the moment, they still don’t know if it’s in one piece or broken up, said the official, Hernato, who goes by one name.

[Full story]

Indonesian searchers say sonar equipment has detected wreckage from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 at the bottom of the sea, a day after the first signs of debris were spotted.

It’s still unclear whether the aircraft is in one piece or broken up, said Hernato, a search and rescue official who goes by one name.

The grim discovery Tuesday of parts of the missing plane and several bodies on the surface of the sea dealt a heartbreaking blow to families whose loved ones were lost.

AirAsia: Debris is from missing plane

Debris was found 100-200 kilometers (60-120 miles) from the aircraft’s last known location over the Java Sea, Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said.

Seven bodies — four men and three women — have been recovered from the water so far, Indonesian search and rescue chief Bambang Soelistyo said Wednesday. One of the females found was wearing a flight attendant’s uniform, Soelistyo said.

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Search teams are looking for other bodies and parts of the plane, including its so-called black boxes. Those could help investigators determine what went wrong on the flight, which lost contact with air traffic controllers on Sunday with 162 people aboard.

Sonar equipment has been searching the bottom of the sea, tens of meters below the water’s surface, according to SB Supriyadi, the search agency’s director of operations.

Dozens of ambulances were lined up in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, ready to carry any bodies recovered.

The search isn’t easy; heavy wind and rain, as well as big waves, are hampering efforts, officials said.

Families’ anguish

As families watched a live news conference Tuesday about the discovery of the debris and saw video of a helicopter lowering a diver to what appeared to be a floating body, some people fainted. Stretchers were brought into the room.

Family members burst into tears, dabbing their eyes as officials passed out tissues. Some sat with their eyes full of tears, hands covering their mouths or heads buried in their hands. Others had phones jammed against their ears.

“Everyone became hysterical, especially the mothers. One mother even blacked out,” said Maria Endang Wirasmi, whose daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren were on the flight.

Her husband, Imam Sampurno, said he was relieved the plane had been found.

“We hope that our children will be saved by a miracle,” he said.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes told reporters he hoped there was “at least some closure” for families.

“My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501,” he tweeted. “On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.”

Flight 8501 was operated by AirAsia’s Indonesian affiliate.

Military crew spotted an object’s shadow

Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, said the debris was discovered when a crew on a military aircraft spotted the shadow of an object that looked like a plane in the water off the coast of Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province on Borneo.

Further searching found floating objects believed to be the bodies of passengers, and then what appeared to be an emergency exit of the plane. Officials sent other search teams racing to the area.

Several nations are contributing resources to the effort, including the United States. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Sampson arrived Tuesday.

The USS Fort Worth is also being prepared to deploy from Singapore, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said. It “can be ready to sail in a day or two to get on station and can be there very quickly,” he said.

The United States is also preparing maritime patrol aircraft that could help, he said.

The flight, which was lost Sunday on its way to Singapore, was carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members. The overwhelming majority were Indonesians. There were also citizens of Britain, France, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

Search and rescue teams are diverting all their resources to where the debris is, in the Karimata Strait, about 110 nautical miles southwest of the Indonesian city of Pangkalan Bun, AirAsia said.

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Search zone where debris was found Search zone where debris was found

Search zone where debris was foundSearch zone where debris was found

Indonesian Air Force personnel on Tuesday, December 30, show debris, including a suitcase, that was found floating near the site where AirAsia Flight QZ8501 disappeared on Sunday. Indonesia's national search and rescue agency confirmed that the debris found is from that flight, the airline said Tuesday.Indonesian Air Force personnel on Tuesday, December 30, show debris, including a suitcase, that was found floating near the site where AirAsia Flight QZ8501 disappeared on Sunday. Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency confirmed that the debris found is from that flight, the airline said Tuesday.
Debris floats in the Java Sea on December 30. Flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members.Debris floats in the Java Sea on December 30. Flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members.
A member of the Indonesian Navy monitors a radar screen during a search operation over the waters near Bangka Island, Indonesia, on December 30.A member of the Indonesian Navy monitors a radar screen during a search operation over the waters near Bangka Island, Indonesia, on December 30.
A piece of debris floats in the Java Sea on December 30.A piece of debris floats in the Java Sea on December 30.
Family members of missing passengers react at an airport in Surabaya, Indonesia, after watching news reports on December 30.Family members of missing passengers react at an airport in Surabaya, Indonesia, after watching news reports on December 30.
Debris floats in the Java Sea on December 30.Debris floats in the Java Sea on December 30.
Relatives of the flight's pilot, Captain Iriyanto, gather at his house in Surabaya on December 30. Second from right is his wife, Rr. Widiya Sukati Putri.Relatives of the flight’s pilot, Captain Iriyanto, gather at his house in Surabaya on December 30. Second from right is his wife, Rr. Widiya Sukati Putri.
Indonesian Air Force personnel scan the sea from plane windows on December 30.Indonesian Air Force personnel scan the sea from plane windows on December 30.
A member of an Indonesian search and rescue team gestures as the team is ferried out to a ship to conduct search operations on December 30.A member of an Indonesian search and rescue team gestures as the team is ferried out to a ship to conduct search operations on December 30.
Relatives of missing passengers comfort each other December 30 at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya.Relatives of missing passengers comfort each other December 30 at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya.
Relatives gather at Juanda International Airport as they wait for news on December 30.Relatives gather at Juanda International Airport as they wait for news on December 30.
An Indonesian search and rescue team prepares for a search on December 30.An Indonesian search and rescue team prepares for a search on December 30.
An Indonesian military airman looks out the window of an airplane during a search over the waters of Karimata Strait on Monday, December 29. An Indonesian military airman looks out the window of an airplane during a search over the waters of Karimata Strait on Monday, December 29.
Indonesian Army personnel read a map during a search operation on December 29.Indonesian Army personnel read a map during a search operation on December 29.
Members of Indonesia's Marine Police pray before a search operation on December 29.Members of Indonesia’s Marine Police pray before a search operation on December 29.
Military personnel perform a search operation on Sunday, December 28.Military personnel perform a search operation on Sunday, December 28.
Sunu Widyatmoko, CEO of Indonesia AirAsia, announces December 28 that the flight lost contact with air traffic control.Sunu Widyatmoko, CEO of Indonesia AirAsia, announces December 28 that the flight lost contact with air traffic control.
Members of the Indonesian Regional Disaster Management Agency walk at a beach as they search for the missing plane on December 28.Members of the Indonesian Regional Disaster Management Agency walk at a beach as they search for the missing plane on December 28.
Jiang Hui, whose relatives were on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, watches the news about the missing AirAsia flight at his house in Beijing on December 28. Flight 370 went missing on March 8 and has yet to be found.Jiang Hui, whose relatives were on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, watches the news about the missing AirAsia flight at his house in Beijing on December 28. Flight 370 went missing on March 8 and has yet to be found.
An official from Indonesia's national search and rescue agency points to the position where AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went missing.An official from Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency points to the position where AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went missing.
The aircraft went missing as it flew over the Java Sea between the islands of Belitung and Borneo, according to Indonesian authorities. It was bound for Singapore.The aircraft went missing as it flew over the Java Sea between the islands of Belitung and Borneo, according to Indonesian authorities. It was bound for Singapore.
An official checks a map of Indonesia at Juanda International Airport.An official checks a map of Indonesia at Juanda International Airport.

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The search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501The search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501

How can a modern airliner vanish?

Unanswered questions

Fernandes said the focus for now must remain on the recovery effort, and no sweeping changes were planned for the airline, which has 1,000 flights a day. “But rest assured,” he said, that once the investigation is done, if “there are things we need to change, that we will change it.”

The Airbus A320-200 lost contact with air traffic control early Sunday shortly after the pilot requested permission to turn and climb to a higher altitude because of bad weather, according to Indonesian officials.

Authorities mounted a huge effort to find the aircraft, mapping out a search zone covering 156,000 square kilometers.

Questions remain about why Flight 8501 lost contact with air traffic control and what happened afterward.

Some experts have said the aircraft might have experienced an aerodynamic stall because of a lack of speed or from flying at too sharp an angle to get enough lift.

Analysts have also suggested the pilots might not have been getting information from onboard systems about the plane’s position or that rain or hail from thunderstorms in the area could have damaged the engines.

The key to understanding what happened is likely to be contained in the aircraft’s flight recorders.

“Until we get the black boxes, we won’t know what’s going on with the engines,” said Bill Savage, a former pilot with 30 years of experience.

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CNN’s Andrew Stevens, Elizabeth Joseph, Felicia Wong, Mitra Mobasherat, Gary Tuchman, Brian Walker, Khushbu Shah, Jake Tapper and Will Ripley, journalist Archicco Guilianno and translators Azieza Uhnavy and Edi Pangerapan contributed to this report.



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