Navy ships exit search for AirAsia

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USS Sampson (Credit: U.S. Navy)

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego-based destroyer USS Sampson and littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth completed their recovery work at the Air Asia crash site off Indonesia and are headed for their next assignments, the Navy reported Thursday.

The 509-foot Sampson and Fort Worth put in a combined 650 hours on the search for the aircraft, which disappeared from radar screens shortly after requesting an altitude change to avoid heavy storms.

The main fuselage of the Airbus A-320 was discovered on Wednesday. The flight and voice recorders for the aircraft that crashed Dec. 28, killing all 162 passengers and crew, have also been recovered.

“I commend the professionalism and dedication to the mission the sailors of the United States Navy exhibited while working in close coordination with their Indonesian counterparts,” said Robert Blake, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia.

“We are all pleased with the recovery of the black boxes and location of portions of the plane that we hope will shed some light on the cause of this tragedy,” he said. “The United States offers condolences to the families and loved ones of those who perished on Indonesia Air Asia Flight 8501. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who await news on the passengers and crew who remain missing.”

The Sampson and Fort Worth contributed NAS North Island-based helicopters, divers, inflatable boats, radar, sonar and optical sighting systems to the search.

“It was an honor to be part of this search effort,” said Cmdr. Steven Foley, the Sampson commanding officer. “Indonesia did a tremendous job in organizing this multinational search effort, and our sailors are proud to have been able to assist.”

The Sampson will resume its standard operations as part of a deployment that began on Halloween, and the Fort Worth will go to Singapore for planned maintenance, according to the Navy. The Fort Worth is operating out of Singapore for the next year or so.

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