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USS Sampson Recovers 12 Bodies from Wreckage


A U.S. Navy warship has recovered a dozen bodies from the AirAsia flight that crashed into the Java Sea, the service said.

The destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) found six bodies on Jan. 1 and another six on Jan. 2, the service announced. They're among some 30 bodies that had been recovered as of Friday morning.

"The bodies are being treated with all regards to religious customs and sensitivities and are being transferred to Indonesian authorities at Pangkalan," according to a Navy statement.

Another 132 bodies are yet to be found from the AirAsia flight QZ8501 that crashed on Dec. 28 off the coast of Indonesia en route to Singapore. Many are presumed to be in the fuselage, parts of which have been recovered from the relatively shallow waters. The sea has an average depth of about 150 feet.

The San Diego-based USS Sampson, which falls under the command of the Navy's 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, is equipped with two MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters. The choppers were reportedly used to ferry to the bodies to land. The vessel is conducting searches around the clock and will remain on station until Indonesian officials no longer need it, according to the statement.

The ship's commanding officer, Cmdr. Steven Foley, on Dec. 31 talked about the search and rescue efforts on Dec. 31 in an interview with the Pentagon's internal information outlet Armed Forces Network.

Meanwhile, t he Navy has ordered to assist with the operations the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth, which is outfitted with an MH-60R, a pair of rigid hull inflatable boats and side-scan sonar, a low-frequency system that can map the seafloor in high-resolution. The ship left Singapore on Friday morning to head to the area and is expected to arrive on Saturday, according to the service.

"Fort Worth brings maneuverability, speed and shallow draft, allowing her to conduct expeditious visual and radar searches in a congested, shallow water environment," according to a statement from the 7th fleet later Friday. "Fort Worth's embarked MH-60R helicopter will further extend sensor coverage over the horizon and her two 11-m rigid hull inflatable boats will aid surface search efforts."

The service is also keeping on standby dive teams and the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

The search and rescue mission has been hampered by bad weather, including thunderstorms and waves measuring as high as 13 feet. However, the operation isn't nearly as complicated as last year's efforts to find the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. That plane, which was carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared March 8 and is believed to have crashed  and sank some 15,000 feet to the floor of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Perth, Australia.

If officials have found the tail section, it shouldn't take them long to recover the plane's black box, or flight recorder that's stored in the rear of the plane and captures data that could help investigators determine what caused the crash.

(Story was updated with new information provided by the Navy on Friday night.)

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