The National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) officially ceased its search operation on Monday for AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed into the sea off South Kalimantan two months ago. However, a much smaller operation will continue for a couple more weeks.
The plane crashed into the sea with 162 people on board, including seven crew members, all of whom are believed to be dead, on its way from Surabaya, East Java, to Singapore on Dec. 28 last year.
Basarnas chief, Air Chief Marshal FH Bambang Soelistyo, said on Monday that he would meet on Tuesday with the families of the passengers and crew whose bodies have yet to be found to talk about the latest situation related to the main search operation and the plans to end it, before eventually making a final decision to call off the operation.
The Basarnas also handed over the fuselage, which it lifted from the seabed on Feb. 27 and transported from the Karimata Strait aboard the Crest Onyx vessel, to the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) at Jakarta's Tanjung Priok port for further examination earlier on Monday.
"If they want additional [time], of course I will pay attention to it, as long as there is a clear timeline," said Bambang at the Presidential Office after a meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Monday.
"Of course, I also respect the hopes of the families," he said. "But to find 100 per cent [of the people on board] is also impossible given past experience. We have expended maximum effort."
Basarnas also planned to provide transportation for the families to see the spot where the plane crashed.
According to Bambang, the President trusted him entirely to make the decision to end the search operation and, at the same time, to accommodate the families' desires.
"And I told him [Jokowi] about the solution and he completely agreed with me. And, of course, we have to be open to the families about their expectations and reality," Bambang said.
Three vessels, Bambang said, would be stationed at the search location to continue the additional search operation, which was intended "to give additional [time] for the families" after he officially called off the main operation.
However, Bambang said earlier on Monday that the additional operation would continue searching for bodies for a maximum of two weeks.
"The main operation will be stopped, for sure; however, we will carry on daily operations for two weeks at the most. Everyone has to accept this reality," Bambang said during the press conference in Tanjung Priok earlier on Monday.
So far, 103 bodies have been found and 97 of them identified.
Meanwhile, AirAsia Indonesia president director Sunu Widyatmoko said the next of kin of three passengers - out of the 155 on board the AirAsia flight - had received Rp 1.25 billion in compensation, which is in line with the amount of money stipulated in Transportation Ministry Regulation No. 77/2011.
Sunu added that AirAsia would keep waiting for other victims' families to complete the paperwork for insurance claims.
"The problem is that there is incomplete [paperwork]. We are working closely with the local administration [to help us coordinate with] the next of kin whose paperwork is not complete yet," he said as quoted from Antara news agency.
Basarnas' AirAsia search ops
Rear Marshal FH Bambang Sulistyo, who took the helm of the agency on April 14, 2014, led the search and rescue operation.
The operation began on Dec. 28, 2014. Officially, the operation should have ended on Jan. 28, but the Basarnas and the TNI agree to extend the search.
Dec. 30, 2014: Three days after the crash, the first debris and several bodies of AirAsia victims are found.
Jan. 7, 2015: The flight's tail section is located.
Jan. 10, 2015: The tail section is lifted and brought to shore.
Jan. 12, 2015: The flight data recorder (FDR) is recovered.
Jan. 13, 2015: The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) is found.
Feb. 27, 2015: The AirAsia fuselage is located.
March 2, 2015: The fuselage is shipped to the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) for investigation.