AirAsia families accept 'sad reality' as search ends

Eka Santoso, whose brother, sister-in-law and their two children were on the plane, said he believed if the search operation was extended, more bodies could be found, but he had accepted the decision to end it. 

The body of his brother has been retrieved, but his three other relatives remain missing. 

"I have already asked AirAsia and the search and rescue agency to extend the search, but I cannot do more," said the 53-year-old, adding that he would just have to "accept that they are no longer searching for our loved ones".

Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, said the decision to end the search had been taken after consulting the victims' relatives at a meeting in Surabaya.

"The search should have ended much earlier but out of respect for family members, we extended the operation until we completely ended it yesterday (Tuesday)," he told AFP. 

The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has so far shed little light on what caused the flight to crash, or what occurred in the moments before the tragedy.

It has reported that the plane climbed rapidly in an area of towering storm clouds before crashing, and that the co-pilot was at the controls, rather than the more experienced pilot, in the moments before the accident.

The plane's black box flight data recorders have been recovered, and will provide vital clues as investigators seek to figure out what caused the crash. —Rappler.com