[PANGKALAN BUN] Indonesian divers on Thursday found five bodies still belted into their seats near the main section of an AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last month with 162 people on board, and are hopeful of reaching the fuselage.
A total of 58 bodies have now been found following the crash of flight QZ8501 which went down on December 28 in stormy weather as it flew from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
"Our divers found five bodies buried in mud, close to the plane fuselage. They were still belted to their seats," SB Supriyadi, a rescue agency official coordinating the search, told AFP.
"We believe they spilled out of the fuselage, which is 50 to 100 metres (160 to 330 feet) away," he said.
Three bodies have been retrieved and taken to the warship Banda Aceh, while the other two were still being recovered, he said.
He added that divers had yet to reach the main section of the plane, which is thought to contain the bulk of passengers and crew, as visibility under water was only two metres.
"But it is a bright, clear day so we remain optimistic that the divers might reach the wreckage today (Thursday)," he said.
The main body of the Airbus A320-200 was spotted on the seabed by a military vessel last week following an arduous search in shallow Indonesian waters, but strong underwater currents and rough seas have prevented divers from reaching it.
The jet's black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder - were recovered last week, and investigators are analysing them.
Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said this week that the plane climbed abnormally fast before stalling and plunging into the sea.
Just moments before the plane disappeared off the radar, the pilot had asked to climb to avoid a major storm but was not immediately granted permission due to heavy air traffic.