The crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 took a very heavy toll on the Christian minority in Surabaya, Indonesia, with more than a quarter of the 162 presumed dead belonging to the same church congregation. Around 41 members of the Mawar Sharon church were on the plane, and another 10 passengers were related to church members, a pastor tells NBC. The parishioners weren't traveling as a group or to attend a religious function, he says, but many families had been saving up money to celebrate New Year's in Singapore. He says a pastor has been assigned to each of 14 grieving families, some of which lost several members, including children, on the doomed flight.
At a service at the Pentecostal church yesterday, the head of the congregation urged mourners to find strength in their faith, the AP reports. "If God has called your child, allow me to say this: Your child is not to be pitied," he said. "Your child is already in God's arms. One day, your family will be reunited in heaven." More:
- Three bodies were recovered from the Java Sea yesterday, and another three were found after the search resumed in better weather today, bringing the total to 37, the BBC reports. Most of the bodies are believed to still be in the fuselage, which is thought to be among five large pieces of wreckage detected on the seabed that divers are trying to locate.
- The captain of an Indonesian naval vessel says the ship has found "what has a high probability of being the tail of the plane," which would carry the jet's black boxes, although search-and-rescue officials have yet to confirm the find, reports Reuters.
- Indonesian authorities are investigating suspected safety violations, as well as the fact that AirAsia didn't have a permit to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on the day of the crash, the Wall Street Journal reports. Investigators are examining how up to date the weather information provided to the plane was, and airport officials who were on duty during the flight have been suspended.