Indonesia's military on Tuesday suspended the recovery operation for AirAsia Flight 8501 after search teams failed to salvage the fuselage from the Java Sea, and some divers involved in the operation suffered from decompression sickness, also known as divers’ disease, BBC reported.
Authorities reportedly said that recovering the fuselage was not a priority anymore as they now believe that no victims are trapped in the plane’s main section. Indonesia's military chief told BBC that the wreckage was too fragile to be lifted to the surface, and that the fuselage broke into pieces as it plunged back into the sea floor after ropes used to salvage it snapped.
"All of our forces are being pulled out," Rear Admiral Widodo, a navy official reportedly said. "The operation has been ongoing for 30 days so the joint team has pulled out.
"We apologize to the families of the victims. We tried our best to look for the missing victims," he added.
The civilian National Search and Rescue Agency reportedly said that it would press authorities to continue the search for the victims, but added that efforts would be slow-moving if military vessels and recovery equipment are not involved in the operation.
"Perhaps we will do regular operations with help from fishermen and communities near the coast to find other victims," Tatang Zaenuddin, the agency's deputy of operations, told Reuters.
An investigator for Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee also said Tuesday that a preliminary report in the plane’s crash, expected to be submitted this week, will not include the analysis of the flight data recorders.
Meanwhile, investigators probing the crash are examining maintenance records of the plane’s automated control systems after suspecting a problem with the Flight Augmentation Computers (FAC). “There appears to be some issue with the FAC," a person close to the investigation told Reuters.
However, experts believe that the FAC outage could not directly be linked to the Dec. 28 crash, but sources reportedly said that a partial analysis of the flight data recorders drew the investigators' interest to the computers, which comprise of systems mainly responsible for detecting changes in wind speed and direction, controlling an aircraft's rudder movements, and helping the plane remain stable.
Another person close to the probe told Reuters that investigators are also looking at how the pilots handled the events that led to the plane’s crash. Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan had said last week, based on radar data, that the plane made an abnormally steep climb before stalling and crashing into the Java Sea.