On Tuesday, the family members of passengers on AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 learned of the fate of their loved ones in horrifying fashion: rolling Indonesian television footage of aerial searches for the missing plane produced the image of a dead passenger floating in the water, sending waves of grief through the crowd. News channels carrying the feed quickly apologized.
As the search for survivors begins, some clues as to what might have happened to the flight and its 162 passengers are emerging. “It wasn’t a controlled ditching,” a safety director at Ascend Worldwide Ltd., a London-based aviation consulting company, told Bloomberg. “That’s clear from the finding of bodies that don’t have life jackets on.”
At a press conference following the development, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes issued a call against early speculation before making his own: “We have 1,000 flights a day and until we have the investigation we cannot make any assumptions as to what went wrong. All I can say is the weather in Southeast Asia is very bad at the moment."
Punctuating his point, as the news was breaking about the fate of QZ 8501, another AirAsia flight overshot a runway in the Philippines while landing in windy weather. The Philippines has been beset by flash floods and mudslides from a tropical storm, which, according to officials, has left 31 people dead. (There were no reported injuries among the 159 passengers.)