A mass was held early Wednesday, and a memorial service will take place for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, as authorities piece together what happened to the Airbus A320-200 that has been located in the Java Sea. Relatives of those who are presumed to have perished in the plane’s disappearance sang hymns and wiped away tears during a short mass at a crisis center in Surabaya, Indonesia.
"Our God is not evil,” a priest told the crowd of about 50, according to the Agence France-Presse. "One day slowly we will understand. Something beautiful can still come out of this. There are many tests in this world. We must keep our faith in Jesus."
Relatives expressed grief for those lost in the crash. "I am so sad that he's gone, but this is the will of God," Hadi Widjaja, whose 32-year-old son and daughter-in-law were among the crash victims, told AFP. "I am anxious to know if the rescuers have found their bodies. The president has said that they will do the best they can to find them," he said. "But if they really cannot find them, I will scatter flowers in the sea here as a way to say goodbye."
The governor of Indonesia’s East Java province canceled New Year’s Eve celebrations in the region, according to the BBC. A public memorial is slated for Wednesday evening in Surabaya.
Authorities have recovered at least 40 bodies from the search zone. Some of the victims were wearing life jackets, fueling speculation that at least some of the plane’s passengers may have been alive after the plane went down and before it sank. Officials have wondered why the pilots did not issue a distress call, even though it appears there may have been some forewarning that the aircraft was in trouble. Debris pulled from the Java Sea on Tuesday has been linked to Flight 8501. Using sonar, investigators pinpointed the plane’s wreckage in the shallow waters of the Java Sea, however they have not been able to locate the cockpit voice recorders or flight data. The equipment could help officials determine what occurred before the plane plummeted into the sea.
AirAsia Flight 8501 went missing Sunday shortly after the pilot requested to change altitude due to bad weather. The aircraft had left Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on Sunday and was en route to Singapore when it disappeared. All 155 passengers and seven crew members are presumed dead. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the plane’s crash has been underway.