Divers make fresh bid to reach AirAsia jet main body

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia - Indonesian divers Friday made a fresh attempt to reach the main body of an AirAsia plane that crashed in the sea last month with 162 people on board, after their initial bid failed due to bad weather and rough seas.

Flight QZ8501 went down in the Java Sea on December 28 in stormy weather during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

The plane's black boxes were recovered this week, providing investigators with a wealth of information to determine what caused the crash, and on Wednesday a Singapore navy vessel spotted the fuselage, the jet's main body.

So far just 50 bodies have been recovered, but authorities hope the main section will contain most of the passengers and crew.

Underwater photos taken by high-tech search equipment showed the fuselage and part of Malaysia-based AirAsia's motto - "Now Everyone Can Fly" - painted on the plane's exterior.

The first attempt on Thursday to reach the fuselage failed due to heavy rains, high waves and limited visibility under water.

Five divers tried to descend to the main body again Friday morning, and search and rescue agency official S.B Supriyadi expressed hope that they would succeed.

"The weather is clear today, hopefully the divers will be able to reach the fuselage, examine its condition and see if there are any bodies inside," he told AFP.

Officials say that if it proves difficult to retrieve bodies from the main section while it is still on the seabed, search and rescue teams will try to lift it.

The plane's tail was raised out of the water last weekend using giant balloons.

Supriyadi said that balloons had been prepared to lift the fuselage if necessary, but cautioned an operation to raise the bulky wreckage could be difficult and it would likely be easier to recover the bodies one at a time.

There was a huge international hunt for the crashed plane, involving ships from several countries including the US and China, but the search has now been scaled back.

The jet's black boxes, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, have been flown to Jakarta, where the National Transportation Safety Committee and international experts have started a probe.

Indonesia's meteorological agency has said bad weather may have caused the crash, but only the black boxes will be able to provide definitive answers.

All but seven of those on board the flight were Indonesian.