AirAsia QZ8501 SAR operation officially closed

AirAsia QZ8501 SAR operation officially closed
An Indonesian military helicopter returns from a search mission for AirAsia QZ8501 at the airbase in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan January 4, 2015.

The search mission surrounding AirAsia flight QZ8501 officially ended as the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) recently announced the withdrawal of all vessels and divers back to their bases.

The announcement officially put an end to the seven-day extension of the search and rescue (SAR) operation for the ill-fated Airbus A320-200 plane, which struck the waters off Pangkalan Bun, West Kalimantan, killing all 162 people on board.

Throughout the seven-day period, Basarnas located three additional remains suspected to be the passengers from the sea floor at the Karimata Strait.

The three remains were retrieved on Saturday last week and they are now being identified at Bhayangkara Hospital in Surabaya, East Java.

In addition, the National Police's Disaster Victim Identification unit (DVI) announced on Friday that one more passenger has been identified as Sharon Michelle An, an Indonesian citizen, bringing the total number of identified passengers to 97.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes thanked the Basarnas, Police and the entire team involved in the SAR efforts.

"These past two and a half months have been extremely difficult, but we are forever grateful for the unwavering support, encouragement and love we have received in our effort to support the families and loved ones of those on board QZ 8501," Fernandes said on Friday.

AirAsia Indonesia president director Sunu Widyatmoko added that the carrier's crisis centre at the East Java Police headquarters' Mahameru Hall had been officially closed on Friday.

"AirAsia has activated an information centre reserved for families and relatives in order to ensure that they remain assisted when requiring further legal administrative assistance as well as informed on the identification results," Sunu said.

As the SAR operations come to an end, AirAsia and Basarnas invite the families and relatives of the QZ8501 passengers to join a one-day trip to Pangkalan Bun and Karimata Strait on Sunday, to cast flowers out into the sea to commemorate their loved ones.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of our passengers and colleagues on board QZ8501," he continued.

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