AirAsia QZ8501: S'pore Navy ship finds body, life raft
The crew on RSS Persistence followed up Saturday's haul of a luggage bag and part of an aircraft overhead compartment with the recovery of a body yesterday morning.
The body was sighted around 8am, and took about 45 minutes to recover.
It is unclear if the body is that of a male or a female as it was already wrapped up by the time reporters were granted access.
Four bodies were recovered yesterday - one by RSS Persistence and three by USS Sampson - taking the total number of bodies found to 34.
Later, at 10.20am, the crew of RSS Persistence spotted an inflated life raft in its designated search area in the Java Sea.
Measuring 3m by 6m, it was so heavy that it took close to 20 people - including those from the media - to haul it on board.
It could not yet be confirmed if the life raft was from the AirAsia flight.
Both the body and the life raft have been sent to Pangkalan Bun airport on a Super Puma helicopter from RSS Persistence.
The finds come six days after the endurance class landing ship tank set sail last Monday to help in the search for victims and debris of the ill-fated AirAsia flight QZ8501.
Even if the inflated life raft is from the aircraft, Britain-based aviation consultant Chris Yates cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
"It doesn't mean that passengers were in the life raft or about to get into it,"he said in a long-distance phone interview.
"It could be that the aircraft fell with such force that the life raft was inflated automatically."
Mr Yates added that it could well be air pressure that caused the raft to inflate.
He said: "I think we can't at this stage put any great significance (on the items found)."
Indonesian-based aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman agreed.
"It needs to be seen if (the life raft) showed signs of being deliberately cut free from the door, or if it was ripped off," he said.
If it is the latter, it could just mean that the life raft came loose and got inflated inadvertently, he added.
- Additional reporting by Foo Jie Ying
It doesn't mean that passengers were in the life raft or about to get into it. It could be that the aircraft fell with such force that the life raft was inflated automatically.
- Aviation consultant Chris Yates
Committed in search for answers and closure for families
I watched the mood on board RSS Persistence as the crew spotted first, debris, and yesterday, a body.
The men of the Singapore Navy told me they were encouraged, because finding the body meant closure for families of the victims of ill-fated AirAsia flight QZ8501.
There was also anxious chatter each time a piece of debris was found. They wanted answers. What is it? Where it is from?
I did not get to see the process of retrieving the body yesterday morning. It was already wrapped up by the time I was allowed access.
I said a little prayer when the body was sent to Pangkalan Bun hours later.
Two hours later, the crew spotted an inflated life raft near where the body was found.
First, five men tried hauling the raft up. But it was so heavy that more men stepped forward to help.
After I got the pictures that I needed and noticed that the men were still struggling, I joined them.
And they let me help.
It took close to 20 people to heave the raft, measuring 3m by 6m, onto the ship.
After spending close to a week on the ship with the crew, I saw how personally involved they are in their recovery mission.
When there is a small window of opportunity to access the Internet, crew members would crowd around a small computer - not to go on Facebook, but to track the updates of the QZ8501 recovery efforts.
I, too, have grown to hope with these guys, and do whatever it takes to help the victims' families find closure.
And I have no doubt that, as the ship's name suggests, the crew will be persistent in their efforts.