Search team members have located two large objects at the bottom of the Java Sea that officials said Saturday were part of the crashed AirAsia jet.
The objects, one about 31 feet long and the other about 24 feet, were detected close to each other late Friday and have raised hope that divers could soon reach the plane’s fuselage to retrieve the bodies of passengers believed to be inside and the “black box” flight recorders.
“I can confirm that these are parts of the plane we are looking for,” search chief Bambang Soelistyo told reporters Saturday morning.
Teams were again battling high waves and struggling to lower a remotely operated underwater vehicle to capture clearer images of the objects on the sea floor at a depth of about 100 feet.
Bambang said Russia – one of at least seven nations participating in the search, including the United States – had sent a Beriev BE-200 amphibious aircraft that was scanning the sea for floating objects, while divers were preparing to help locate the fuselage.
The Fort Worth, a U.S. littoral combat ship, joined the U.S. Navy destroyer Sampson in the search area Saturday, American officials said.
The combat ship, based in Singapore, will be used to conduct visual and radar searches in the shallow Java Sea and is equipped with two rigid-hull inflatable boats that were expected to participate in surface search efforts, according to a statement from the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, based in Japan.
Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed Sunday after encountering a thunderstorm during a planned two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. Of the 162 passengers and crew members aboard, 30 bodies have been recovered, officials say.
Indonesia's Antara news agency reported Saturday that the nation's civil aviation authority had suspended AirAsia's permit to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route because the airline violated an agreement.
The news agency quoted Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Andravida Barata as saying that AirAsia had no permit to fly the route on Sundays and that its agreement with the government allowed it to serve the route only on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The suspension will remain in place until the crash investigation is completed, Barata said.
Special correspondent Pathoni reported from Jakarta and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.