Missing flight QZ8501: Families pray and wait for bodies to be recovered

Missing flight QZ8501: Families pray and wait for bodies to be recovered
A Catholic funeral service being held for 11-year-old Grayson Herbert Linaksita, who traveled with his parents and sister on AirAsia flight QZ8501 for a year-end holiday, by the Bethany Church at Adi Jasa funeral home in Surabaya, Indonesia on 2 January 2015.

All that the family of Hwa Chong Institution teacher Florentina Maria Widodo can do for now is wait and pray.

Yesterday, they joined 100 people in an hour-long mass at a small church close to Surabaya's Bhayangkara hospital, where the recovered bodies of those who were on Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 are being sent to be identified.

The service was led by the head of Surabaya's Catholic Diocese, Monsignor Vincent Sutikno Wicaksono. At least 27 on board were Catholics from the city, he said.

He hopes all the bodies would be recovered to give families the closure they need, he told The Sunday Times.

The close-knit community has reached out to help Ms Widodo's family cope, her younger brother Sebastian Joseph Widodo said.

But "it is still a very difficult time for our family", added the accountant, who is a year younger than his 26-year-old sister.

A disaster victim identification team comprising 30 forensic experts is "working day and night" to aid in the quick release of the bodies, Colonel Dr Budiyono, head of East Java's police health and medical services, had said.

Singapore yesterday sent an eight-member team to Surabaya to help identify bodies. It is made up of six officers from the Singapore Police Force and two forensic experts from the Health Sciences Authority.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, who joined family members to send off the team at Changi Airport yesterday, said: "We will do all we can to support our Indonesian friends in these difficult times."

By yesterday afternoon, 12 more bodies had arrived at the Surabaya hospital, bringing the count to 30. So far, six bodies have been identified, including that of 11- year-old Grayson Herbert Linaksita.

His body was handed over to his relatives last Friday. But their ordeal is far from over. The boy was on Flight QZ8501 with his 12-year-old sister Kathleen Fulvia, father Tony and mother Megawati, both 41.

Mr Tony Linaksita's uncle David Linaksita told The Sunday Times: "I hope the bodies of the remaining family members will be recovered soon."

The body of young Grayson, who celebrated his birthday on Dec 15, was taken to the Adi Jasa funeral home, half an hour away.

His father Tony was a car workshop owner. He was on his first trip to Singapore with his family for a year-end holiday.

At the funeral home, Mr David Linaksita was asked if he and other relatives had come to terms with the fact that everyone in his nephew's family of four had died.

The 74-year-old businessman paused to compose himself. He said he had "surrendered" himself to the loss and excused himself to sit down.

His 73-year-old brother Bagyono said they had yet to inform Mr Tony Linaksita's mother of the tragedy. The 64-year-old widow is in Europe on holiday and will return to Surabaya tomorrow.

Until then, relatives will keep Grayson's body at the funeral home. Mr Bagyono Linaksita said he had asked a doctor to be on standby when the family tells Grayson's grandmother the news.

"We hope all the bodies will be recovered by then," he said. "We are still not able to accept that the whole family is gone."

Asked whether they were dissatisfied with the slow progress of search teams out in the Java Sea, he said: "We know they are working hard, but we don't know about the difficulties out there (at sea)."

The first victim of the crash to be identified was 47-year-old Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, after a fingerprint check. She has been buried next to her father-in-law's grave at the Desa Sawo Tratap Muslim Cemetery in Sidoarjo, near Surabaya.

Last Friday, three bodies were identified, including Grayson's. One was of Monash University student Kevin Alexander Soetjipto, who was on the plane with his sister Cindy Clarissa and a relative.

The other body was of 22- year-old Khairunisa Haidar Fauzie, who was partly identified by the name tag which was still on her red uniform. The former law student had joined AirAsia last year to fulfil her dream of becoming an air stewardess

The bodies of Ms The Meiji Thejakusuma, 44, and Mr Hendra Gunawan Syawal, 23, were the latest to be identified yesterday.

Surabaya mayor Tri Rismaharini told The Sunday Times yesterday: "I think a few families are still hoping that their relatives will return in safety, but many are already ready to accept the worst. And because of that I am assisting to ensure that they remain strong and do not face difficulties."

This article was first published on January 4, 2015.
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