For days, the relatives of the 162 people aboard a missing passenger jet gathered at the Juanda International Airport, hoping for news about their lost loved ones. On Tuesday, they waited in a room with six widescreen TVs, as images from the search aired on television.
At the airport, located about 400 miles southeast of Jakarta, those family members watched as Indonesia’s tvOne showed a search team member dressed in orange descending from helicopter.
There was no warning for what they saw next: a body bobbing in the water. It was partially nude, wearing only black underwear.
Several people burst into tears at the sight, and others fainted. Agence France-Presse reported that one man collapsed; a local television broadcast showed someone being carried out on a stretcher.
Very difficult to hear the screaming and crying relatives. They've been waiting for a miracle, but had to watch the worst possible news.
— Alice Budisatrijo (@alicebudi) December 30, 2014
There are six widescreen TVs on walls of Surabaya airport family room. All will be showing those images right now. Too cruel. #QZ8051
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsin) December 30, 2014
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) December 30, 2014
A female AirAsia officer shouted at the television media for showing footage of a floating body, while about 200 journalists were barred from the room holding the families, the windows of which were boarded up.
“Is it possible for you not to show a picture of the dead? Please do not show a picture of a dead body,” said the officer. “That’s crazy.”
Channel News Asia apologized for showing the images, which drew strong condemnation online.
We apologise for graphic images on our TV feed that were inadvertently shown from a live feed, taken directly from an Indonesian TV station.
— Channel NewsAsia (@ChannelNewsAsia) December 30, 2014
AirAsia executives have confirmed the debris and remains located in the water are from Flight 8501, which disappeared Sunday after the pilot asked to climb higher in an apparent attempt to avoid bad weather.
“Families became hysterical,” Munif, a 50-year-old whose younger brother was aboard the plane, told AFP. “Because everyone was wailing and yelling, I couldn’t deal with it so I decided to leave the room.”
William Wan and Herman Wong contributed to this report, which has been updated.