Air Asia Flight QZ8501 With 162 People on Board Likely 'at Bottom of Sea,' Rescue Agency Admits

Family members of passengers on board AirAsia flight QZ 8501 look at a passenger list inside a crisis centre at Juanda Airport in Surabaya, East Java, December 28, 2014, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. |

AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which went missing on Sunday carrying 162 people on board from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore, is likely at the "bottom of the sea," according to search-and-rescue officials.

"Based on the co-ordinates given to us and evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea," Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, said at a news conference in Jakarta.

BBC News noted that the search for the plane continued on Monday morning, looking for any trace or clues that might point searchers to its location.

What is known is that Flight QZ8501's pilots had sent a request to change course due to bad weather, but did not send out a distress call before the aircraft disappeared from radar screens.

Indonesia air force spokesman Hadi Tjahnanto added that the search area is focused on an oil spill, but there's no confirmation on whether that is connected to the disappearance of the plane. Over 30 ships and 15 aircrafts are taking part in the search, with locals such as fishermen also being asked to help.

AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes, who is facing his low-cost airline's first possible major crash, said that the situation is his "worst nightmare."

"We are very devastated by what's happened, it's unbelievable," Fernandes said.

Indonesia AirAsia Chief Executive Sunu Widyatmoko added that the company is "deeply shocked and saddened by this incident," according to Reuters.

"We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident," Widyatmoko said.

The AirAsia flight carried on board 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, and one citizen each from Singapore, Malaysia, and Britain.

The pilot is said to have been experienced, while the aircraft had underwent maintenance in mid-November.

AirAsia has been offering support to relatives of passengers at the Singapore and Indonesia airports, trying to keep them updated on the latest news surrounding the search.

Malaysian airlines have experienced a difficult year in 2014, with Malaysia Airlines, the national carrier, losing two aircrafts in the space on months. MH370 disappeared without a trace in March with 239 people on board on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, while MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing 298 people.

World leaders have been briefed on the developing situation concerning the Flight QZ8501 search, while Pope Francis prayed for the people on board the flight in his Sunday address at the Vatican.

"Dear brothers and sisters, my thoughts in this moment go to the passengers of the airplane which went missing while it was en route from Indonesia to Singapore as well as the passengers of the ships that have been involved in incidents in the past hours in the Adriatic Sea," Francis said.

"With affection and prayers, I am close to their family members and those who are living through these difficult situations with apprehension and suffering as well those who are involved in the rescue operations."

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