PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian navy divers plunged into the sea at dawn Thursday to examine a large chunk of the AirAsia jet’s fuselage, aiming to bring bodies believed to be trapped inside to the surface, the director of the search and rescue agency said.
The day before, a Singaporean navy ship had spotted the 30-meter-long (100-foot-long) section of the plane body with a wing attached on the bottom of the Java Sea. Rescuers believe that most of the bodies of the 162 people on board are inside.
So far, only 50 bodies have been recovered from the Dec. 28 crash less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. Most of the victims are Indonesian.
At least 15 divers descended to the seabed at a depth of 28 meters (92 feet) Wednesday morning to examine wreckage, calculate its weight and search for bodies inside, said Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi, the operation director at the National Search and Rescue Agency.
When corpses are found, the divers will try to put them in individual body bags, which rescuers on ships will then hoist to the surface, he said.
He said it appeared that some parts of the fuselage have been covered with silt.
The plane’s “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and cockpit flight recorder — were retrieved on Monday and Tuesday. They will be key to learning what caused the plane to crash. Bad weather is a suspected factor.
Nine aircraft and 12 ships were involving the search operation Thursday, including two U.S. ships and one each from Singapore and China.