AirAsia Victims Likely Still in Their Seats: Expert

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Five days into the search for victims of a downed AirAsia jetliner, only nine bodies have been recovered. Authorities leading the search effort and a leading aviation expert suspect that is because most of the passengers remain in the plane's fuselage.

Sonar images have identified what appeared to be large parts of the plane. We are "focusing on finding the body of the plane," Indonesia air force spokesman Rear Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters. "It's possible the bodies are in the fuselage," said Vice Air Marshal Sunarbowo Sandi, search and rescue coordinator in Pangkalan Bun. "So it's a race now against time and weather." The longer the search takes, the more corpses will decompose and debris scatter.

Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas in Australia told The Associated Press there's a good chance the plane hit the water largely intact, and that many passengers remain inside it. He added that bodies recovered so far would have come out of a breach in the fuselage.

"But most passengers still should have had their seat belts on, particularly as the plane was going into weather," Thomas said. "The captain would have still had the seat belt sign on."


— Patrick Garrity with The Associated Press