A passenger aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 became the first victim of the crash to be returned to her family today, one of many painful reunions to come, as search crews struggled against wind and heavy rain to find more than 150 people still missing. Hayati Lutfiah Hamid's identity was confirmed by fingerprints and other means, said Col. Budiyono of East Java's Disaster Victim Identification Unit. Her body, in a dark casket topped with flowers, was handed over to family members during a brief ceremony at a police hospital in Surabaya, the Indonesian city where the plane took off. A relative cried as she placed both hands against the polished wood.
The coffin was then taken to a village and lowered into a muddy grave, following Muslim obligations requiring bodies to be buried quickly. An imam said a simple prayer as about 150 people gathered in the drizzling rain, and red flowers were sprinkled over the mound of wet dirt topped by a small white tombstone. Nine bodies have been recovered so far of the 162 aboard, including two today. Remains are being sent initially to Pangkalan Bun, the closest town on Borneo island, before being transported to Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, where Flight 8501 had taken off. Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas in Australia said there's a good chance the plane hit the water largely intact, and that many passengers remain inside it.