Missing flight QZ8501: Relatives given a chance to say goodbye

Missing flight QZ8501: Relatives given a chance to say goodbye
Rescue team members scanning the Java Sea with the ship KRI Banda Aceh in the distance as dark clouds loomed overhead during a search operation for passengers of the doomed flight on Sunday.

Relatives of those on board the ill-fated Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 are being offered a trip on an Indonesian naval ship to the plane's search location to scatter flowers into the sea.

Indonesia's armed forces chief Moeldoko made the offer yesterday to help "lessen their sorrow and sense of loss".

They will take a military flight from Surabaya, where the AirAsia crisis centre for relatives is located, to Pangkalan Bun, though further details are being worked out.

Another four bodies were identified yesterday, bringing the total number released to relatives to 13. Some of these, including the bodies of two flight attendants, were identified using DNA data. In all, 37 bodies have been recovered.

East Java police spokesman Awi Setiyono told reporters that DNA samples have been obtained for 146 of the 162 on board.

Speaking at a press conference after visiting relatives at the crisis centre in the East Java police headquarters yesterday, General Moeldoko said he assured family members that the armed forces are "working hard (to find bodies and the plane wreckage) with friendly countries", including Singapore.

Indonesia's police chief Sutarman promised that all bodies recovered will be identified. He said: "We are working to identify all bodies recovered, no matter the condition they arrive in, and to release them to their families."

The body of Mr Tony Linaksita, 41, was identified yesterday and taken to a funeral home. His casket was placed next to that of his son, Grayson Herbert Linaksita, 11. Relatives are still waiting for news of his wife Megawati and their daughter Kathleen Fulvia, 12.

Mr Linaksita's mother, a widow, is due to return from a holiday in Europe today. A doctor is on standby for when the family breaks the news that all of her son's family of four have died.

His uncle Bagyono Linaksita, 73, said: "We will calm her down first, with a doctor by her side. It is very difficult for us to make a decision whether to cremate the bodies or to bury them and when."

The Disaster Victim Identification team at the Bhayangkara Hospital is made up of 260 local and foreign forensic experts.

Yesterday was the first time both military and police chiefs visited relatives of the people on board the flight, which crashed into the Java Sea on Dec 28 en route from Surabaya to Singapore.

In response to media queries on police action against AirAsia, which has had its Surabaya to Singapore route suspended, General Sutarman said the police will work with the National Transport Safety Committee and Transport Ministry to investigate if the airline had breached any regulations.

Surabaya mayor Tri Rismaharini told reporters that Transport Ministry regulations say a person who dies in an air accident is entitled to 1.2 billion rupiah (S$132,000) in compensation.

"If they are not satisfied with it, they can always ask for more," she said, adding that families are engaging legal experts on compensation claims.

This article was first published on January 6, 2015.
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