AirAsia QZ8501: Did life raft self-inflate?

AirAsia QZ8501: Did life raft self-inflate?
An aircraft life raft was spotted by RSS Persistence yesterday morning in the Java Sea. It could not yet be confirmed if the life raft was from AirAsia flight QZ8501.

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.

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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


This article was first published on Jan 05, 2015.
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