Cockpit voice recorder retrieved from the sea

Cockpit voice recorder retrieved from the sea

With the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 recovered yesterday and the location of the fuselage determined, search officials say the priority remains finding those still missing after the Dec 28 crash.

But the mission strength will be gradually reduced, they added.

Earlier yesterday - Day 17 of the search operations - there was confusion over whether the CVR had been found as officials issued contradicting statements.

By the end of the day, head of the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) Tatang Kurniadi was able to confirm "100 per cent we have found it".

Both the CVR and the flight data recorder (FDR), which was recovered on Monday, were in good condition, he told reporters in Pangkalan Bun, a small Central Kalimantan town closest to the crash site that has become the base for search operations.

The CVR was found about 20m from the place where the FDR had been lying before it was recovered. Like the FDR, the voice recorder - which crash investigators hope will throw light on the cause of the crash - was sent to the KNKT's lab in Jakarta.

Mr Tatang said a preliminary report on the plane crash may be ready within a month while a final report will take a year or longer.

The recovery of both black box recorders will now allow investigators to start analysing the information they contain for clues to what could have caused the Singapore-bound airliner to plunge into the sea with 162 people on board.

Yesterday, AirAsia customers received a personal message of appreciation from its boss Tony Fernandes.

In the e-mail, he said: "The past few weeks have been the most difficult weeks of my life since starting AirAsia 13 years ago."

The 50-year-old former music industry executive, who has been praised for his handling of the crisis, thanked his customers for their "warmth and support" and pledged to review operations for improvement.

"Even in our toughest times, we will continue to be the world's best and be better for you," he said, before ending with a call to pray for those who died.

So far, 48 bodies have been recovered and sent to Surabaya, the location where the flight originated.

Yesterday, the forensics team identified two more passengers - 27-year-old flight steward Oscar Desano from Jakarta, and 40- year-old Yuni Astutik from east Java.

Mr Fernandes and search officials have maintained that their primary focus is on recovering the remaining bodies to help bring closure to relatives and families.

Mr Bambang Soelistyo, chief of search and rescue agency Basarnas, said the search operation - which involved the military, coastguard, Basarnas and foreign naval ships - will be scaled down gradually from today.

"From (today), we will reduce foreign assistance. As the focus of the mission narrows, we can do with fewer strength," he told reporters.

Conditions of the sea and weather have been challenging but now that the search area has been narrowed, other equipment will be used to find the fuselage, where it is believed more bodies can be found.

"But I wish to emphasise we have not stopped the search. We are considering several factors carefully to take in the victims' family expectations and the reality," he said.

This article was first published on January 14, 2015.
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