Smiling with friends, unaware of the terrible fate awaiting them all: Relatives reveal final selfie taken by passenger moments after boarding doomed AirAsia flight

January 5, 2015 9:46 AM

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A selfie taken by a passenger on the doomed AirAsia flight reveals the haunting moment he and three friends patiently await takeoff aboard the plane - which less than an hour later was to crash into the Java Sea, killing all 162 on board.

Indonesian passenger Hendra Gunawan Syawal, 23, took the image of himself and his friends moments after they boarded the flight on December 28.

The image shows the four of them smiling as they sit in their seats as they wait for takeoff on the flight which crashed about 40 minutes after its departure.

An Indonesian naval patrol vessel has also found what the captain claimed could be the tail of the missing AirAsia jet - the section of the plane where the crucial black box voice and flight data recorders are located.

Search and rescue teams have so far recovered 37 bodies. Among the few to have been identified is Mr Syawal, his sister said.

Yunita Syawal said she first feared her brother was on the AirAsia flight when a friend forwarded her the selfie of him and three others boarding one of the carrier's planes.

But it wasn't until she called her parents that her worst fears were confirmed.

She said: 'He would always inform me before travelling anywhere. But the strangest thing was, when we spoke the previous night, he did not mention about going to Singapore,' Gulf News reported.

The wait - first to discover what had happened to the flight and then confirmation as to whether rescuers had found his body - tormented her.

The families of those killed in the flight have been preparing funerals as the corpses are identified in Surabaya, where a crisis centre has been set up at a police hospital with facilities to store 150 bodies.

At least five ships with equipment that can detect the plane's black boxes have been deployed to the area where the suspected plane parts have been spotted.

Although the Indonesian search and rescue agency is yet to confirm the discovery, the Indonesian naval patrol vessel has found what the captain said could be the tail of the missing AirAsia jet, where the black box voice and flight data recorders are located.

'We found what has a high probability of being the tail of the plane,' Yayan Sofyan, captain of the patrol vessel, said.

And five large objects - the biggest measuring 18meters (59ft) long and 5.4meters (18ft) wide and believed to be the body of the plane - have been detected.

He repeated that officials expect many passengers and crew will be found trapped inside.

The crash of Flight 8501 has triggered an intensive international search-and-recovery operation involving 20 planes and helicopters along with 27 ships from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States.

All have been desperately searching for the all-important black boxes, pieces of the Airbus A320 and corpses.

Images of reading glasses, cigarette packets and other everyday objects owned by those on board the ill-fated flight have also emerged, offering a poignant reminder of those killed when it crashed more than a week ago.

They include a pair of glasses still intact within their protective case, a set of keys, a pair of Nike running shoes and a bag containing cigarettes.

Other items hauled on board search and rescue team vessels are debris from the plane itself, including a row of seats and a side panel with windows.

Meanwhile, the daughter of the pilot of the ill-fated AirAsia flight has made a heartfelt plea to the public to stop blaming her dad for the crash which claimed 162 lives.

Captain Iriyanto's daughter, Angela Anggi Ranastianis, 22, made the statement on television as authorities said they were close to locating the black box of flight 8501.

'He is just a victim and has not been found yet. My family is now mourning,' she said, The Straits Times reported.

Calmer weather on Monday meant Indonesian navy divers were able to resume efforts to identify suspected wreckage from AirAsia flight QZ8501 as ships and aircraft widened their search for debris and bodies.

‘The weather is quite conducive. The visibility is six kilometres, there’s no low cloud, and the wind is calm,’ Indonesian Air Force Lt Col Jhonson Supriadi said.

The main focus of the search is about 90 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo island, where five large objects believed to be parts of the plane – the largest about 18 metres long – have been pinpointed by ships using sonar.


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