Hope fades as debris found
Indra Harsaputra and Wahyoe Boediwardhana
The Jakarta Post
Tears rolled down the face of a 60-year-old man as he watched a live televised press conference that confirmed debris had been found from AirAsia QZ8501 and that the plane had crashed into the Karimata Strait with 162 people aboard.
Ferry Chandra ' father of passenger Gani Chandra, 30 ' had hoped for good news while waiting at the crisis center in Surabaya's Juanda Airport.
'Gani said he would celebrate the New Year with his friends. I had no premonition at all,' he added.
Gani was on the flight along with his close friends Prawira Harja Subagio, Hartanto David and Hendra Gunawan Syawal.
'I was still hoping for a miracle,' he said on Tuesday.
His hope, however, was shattered when National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) chief FH Bambang Sulistyo announced that they had found debris from the aircraft.
Tears were shed and uncontrollable screams and wails were heard after was announced the update.
The year-end holidays turned into a time of national mourning.
'He [Gani] was a son who always made his family proud of him,' Ferry said, reminiscing about his son while hugging his crying wife Theresia Felinawati.
They were among the relatives of the AirAsia passengers gathered at the crisis center. Some of them fainted from the emotional breakdown upon hearing the news. Linawati had to be taken to the trauma center after watching local TV channels that aired footage of a floating body without blurring out the image.
Another relative Meliana said that her family had performed a prayer. 'We are not ready to lose a family member. My mother was very shocked when she saw the floating body on TV,' she said.
'We only want to see our family members. If they died, please bring their bodies home,' said Rony Tanubun, a relative of Caroline Harwon, who went to Singapore for a holiday. 'We want them to find the bodies soon but what can they do if bad weather hampers the search.'
It was the first major accident for AirAsia. AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted: 'My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.'
Fernandes said he planned to travel to the recovery site on Wednesday.
'I have apologized profusely for what they are going through,' he said, as quoted by Associated Press. 'I am the leader of this company, and I have to take responsibility. That is why I'm here. I'm not running away from my obligations.'
Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini stayed and comforted relatives. 'You have to be strong. They are not ours, they belong to God,' she said.
Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo expressed his condolences after arriving in Surabaya late Tuesday. He had visited the site in the waters near Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, on a Hercules aircraft.
'I extend my condolences to the families. I feel your loss and I hope you will all be strong,' he said.
Jokowi said that all efforts would be focused on evacuating passengers and the flight crew. 'All vessels are heading to the site.'
He also expressed his gratitude to Basarnas, police, the military and local fishermen who have been continuously searching for the aircraft.
Flight QZ8501 was officially declared missing on Sunday morning. Reports said Jakarta's air traffic control had been about to approve the flight's request to climb to a higher altitude when the plane vanished.
Separately, East Java Police Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) team chief Sr. Comr. dr. Budiyono said all bodies would be flown to Surabaya for identification at the Bhayangkara Police Hospital.
Dozens of DVI team members and students from Hang Tuah University's School of Medicine took DNA samples from relatives for the identification process.
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