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Plane crash bodies found still strapped to their seats

After nearly a week of searching for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains have more than tripled the number of bodies pulled from the Java Sea, some still strapped to their seats.

Of the 30 bodies recovered so far, 21 were found yesterday, many of them by a US Navy ship, according to officials.

The Airbus A320 carrying 162 passengers and crew went down on Sunday, halfway into a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, to Singapore. Minutes before losing contact, the pilot told air traffic control he was approaching threatening clouds, but was denied permission to climb to a higher altitude because of heavy air traffic.

It remains unclear what caused the plane to plunge into the sea. The accident was AirAsia's first since it began operations in 2001.

In addition to looking for victims, Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said ships from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the US are scouring the ocean floor as they try to pinpoint wreckage and the all-important black boxes.

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The data recorder contains information like engine temperature and speed. The voice recorder saves conversations between pilots and other sounds coming from the cockpit.

Toos Saniotoso, an Indonesian air safety investigator, said investigators "are looking at every aspect" as they try to determine why the plane crashed.

Bad weather, which has hindered the search for the past several days, remained a worry. Strong sea currents have also kept debris moving.

That has severely slowed recovery efforts as bodies drift further away.

Colonel Yayan Sofiyan, commander of the warship Bung Tomo, pulled seven bodies from the choppy waters today, five still fastened in their seats.

Four crash victims have been identified and returned to their families, including a flight attendant and an 11-year-old boy.

hnews@herald.ie


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