USS Sampson Helping In Search for AirAsia Flight 8501

When AirAsia Flight 8501 went missing last month, an international search for the plane, believed lost in the Pacific Ocean, began. Joining that search was the USS Sampson, a guided missile destroyer that was near the area when the crash was first reported, and responded with maritime aid quickly.

So far, the USS Sampson has been credited with finding aircraft debris and reported human remains from the wreckage. Saturday, littoral combat ship USS Forth Worth arrived on the scene to aid as well, having more maneuverable capability than the larger Sampson.

According to Stars and Stripes, early on in the search, the USS Sampson was among the first to find evidence of the wreck. Navy Officials announced that possible wreckage from Flight 8501 was found by the Sampson, as MH-60R (“Romeo Seahawk”) search-and-rescue helicopters from the ship combed the seas.

Stripes then reported a few days later that bodies from 8501 were being recovered, and the USS Sampson was pivotal in that effort. The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Navy is committed to staying in the search for Flight 8501 as long as is required, with the above-mentioned USS Sampson and USS Fort Worth being the major part of that aid. They quote Lieutenant Lauren Cole, deputy public affairs officer for the 7th Fleet, saying that weather conditions have hampered search efforts, but the USS Sampson’s two Romeo Seahawk helicopters were able to operate daily, and the Sampson is credited with finding twelve bodies, of a total of about 30 found so far, since it joined the search.

When ABC News asked the USS Sampson’s commanding officer, Commander Steven Foley, why his ship, or others in the effort, had not located the sunken aircraft’s underwater locator beacon, the Commander answered. The range of the “ping” from the beacon “is only about 4,000-5,000” yards, so the USS Sampson would have to travel almost directly over it to hear the signal.

The U.S. Navy has committed to offering as much aid as Indonesian officials ask for, Commander Foley continues. They have jurisdiction as the flight, AirAsia 8501, hit the Java Sea en route to Singapore after leaving Surabaya, Indonesia.

Indonesian authorities have announced that they believe they’ve found the bulk of the aircraft under the water, saying sonar results seem to show the fore and aft portions of the plane on the sea bed about 30 meters below the surface. A remotely-operated submarine is taking photos of the objects for further analysis.

The USS Sampson continues its patrol of the waters, with helicopters buzzing overhead in search of debris and bodies.