AirAsia QZ8501: She is very brave, says uncle of MGS girl

It would have been a happy family reunion in Singapore for Chiara Natasha on Sunday.

But her parents and brothers never arrived for their belated Christmas celebration together.

The Indonesian family was among the 162 passengers and crew on board AirAsia flight QZ8501 en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore when it crashed into the Java Sea.

Plane wreckage and seven bodies have been found so far. The search was called off yesterday because of bad weather.

Chiara, 15, does not know when, or if, she will see her family again.

Despite her pain, the teenager has continued to be strong and hopeful, her uncle, Mr Rambang Darnoprojo, told The New Paper yesterday.

"She's fully aware of the situation. But she is being very brave as she faces it," the businessman said in Bahasa Indonesia in a telephone interview from the crisis centre in Surabaya's Juanda International Airport.

Yesterday, his wife and Chiara had stayed home while waiting for news of their missing family. The day before, they had been at the crisis centre with Mr Rambang.

Chiara told Harian Metro earlier this week, while clinging on to a picture or her family, that she was shocked and speechless after learning of the incident from a relative.

"Now she can't even cry anymore. There are just no more tears left," her uncle said.

Mr Rambang, 48, is the older brother of Chiara's mother, Madam Indahju Liangsih, 46.

She was on the flight with her husband, Mr Herumanto Tanus, 46, and their sons, Nico Giovanni, 17, and Justin Giovanni, nine.

They were coming to Singapore to join Chiara, who is a student at Methodist Girls' School, for a family holiday.

Nico, a St Andrew's Junior College student, held a Singapore Ministry of Education scholarship and had studied at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

According to Mr Rambang, Chiara will return to school in Singapore for the new term.

"I will make sure of that. It is what her parents would have wanted. I will be her guardian and take care of all her needs from this point onwards until she grows up," he said.


Like his niece, Mr Rambang maintains a calm front.

"There is nothing that can ever describe the grief when you experience something like this," he said.

Throughout the ordeal, he said that Chiara has remained tight-lipped.

"She doesn't ask me any questions. She knows I won't have the answers. She keeps everything inside. Maybe she feels this is all a dream," he said.

Her friends in Surabaya and schoolmates in Singapore have reached out to her to give their support.

As the search and recovery of bodies is ongoing, Chiara and her uncle continue to cling tightly to hope.

He said: "Yes, they have found bodies, but we don't know who they are for now. We remain positive and hopeful for their safe return... hopefully, alive. There is still a chance.

"But if the worst happens, then it's fate and we accept it."

This article was first published on January 1, 2015.
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