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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, February 18, 2018

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Hunt on for black box of AirAsia flight as more bodies pulled out from Java Sea

US Navy ship USS Sampson is part of the rescue efforts

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JAKARTA - Several more bodies of the victims of the ill-fated AirAsia flight 8501 were pulled out from the choppy waters of the Java Sea Friday as rescuers continue battling rain and four metres high waves looking for the black box of the aircraft.

US Navy ship USS Sampson is part of the rescue efforts.

Around 30 bodies have been pulled out from the sea so far. Some of the bodies were found still strapped to their seats.

The accident was AirAsia's first since it began operations in 2001. It is one of the region's most popular low-cost carriers.

Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said ships from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. are scouring the ocean floor to locate the wreckage and the black boxes.

The data recorder contains crucial information like engine temperature and vertical and horizontal speed; the voice recorder saves conversations between pilots and other sounds coming from inside the cockpit.

Indonesian air safety investigator Toos Saniotoso said investigators "are looking at every aspect" as they try to determine why the plane crashed. "From the operational side, the human factor, the technical side, the ATC (air-traffic control) everything is valuable to us".

Four crash victims have been identified and returned to their families, including a flight attendant and an 11-year-old boy.

According to a theory, the pilot of AirAsia Flight 8501 may have landed the plane on the ocean surface, only to have it sink in high seas, some aviation experts have said citing the intact condition of several bodies.

"The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) would work on impact, be that land, sea or the sides of a mountain, and my analysis is it didn't work because there was no major impact during landing," Dudi Sudibyo, a senior editor of aviation magazine Angkasa, told the AFP.

"The pilot managed to land it on the sea's surface."

More ships arrived Friday with sensitive equipment to hunt for the fuselage of the AirAsia Flight 8501.

The reason behind the crash remains a mystery. It's unclear what brought the plane down about halfway into its two-hour flight to Singapore.

The jet's last communication indicated the pilots were worried about bad weather and sought permission to climb above threatening clouds. They were denied permission because of heavy air traffic.

Four minutes later, the airliner disappeared from the radar without issuing a distress signal.

Items found so far include a life jacket, an emergency exit door, an inflatable slide, children's shoes and luggage.

Indonesia's Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said efforts would be stepped up as long as the weather allowed.

After prayers on Friday, more than 200 people gathered at a mosque in Surabaya to remember the victims.

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