Indonesian soldier 88.
(photo credit: )
An Indonesian navy ship has detected metal on the ocean floor that might be the wreckage of a jetliner that disappeared one week ago with 102 people on board, a top commander said Monday.
A more sophisticated US Navy ocean mapping ship assisting in the search for the Boeing 737 was heading to waters off Sulawesi Island's western coast to do a more detailed survey, said Gatot Sudijanto.
"If that metal turns out to be what we are looking for, then thanks be to God," he said, adding it was found in three locations within a several kilometer (mile) radius and at a depth of 1,500 meters to 2,000 meters (yards).
The Adam Air plane left Java island for the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado on New Year's Day, but experienced 130 kph (80 mph) winds and storms halfway through the two-hour flight, twice forcing it to change course, officials said.
The pilot did not issue a mayday or report technical problems before the plane dropped off the radar over the western coastal town of Majene.
With no emergency location signal to guide search efforts, more than 3,600 soldiers, police and volunteers have fanned out over a 80,000 sq. kilometer (30,000 sq. mile) swath of Sulawesi's mountainous jungles and its surrounding seas.
Indonesia said it welcomed all international assistance in the search.
Singapore has been providing aerial surveys and a US National Transportation Safety Board team arrived Friday, along with representatives from Boeing, the US Federal Aviation Administration and General Electric, to help investigate.
A US Navy sonar-equipped ship was expected to arrive in Makassar's port by Tuesday to help search nearby waters, said US Embassy spokeswoman Shannon Quinn. Satellite imagery of the island was also being analyzed in the United States.
Three Americans, a man from Oregon and his two daughters, were among the plane's 96 passengers. It was not clear if any other foreigners were on board.
A day after the plane disappeared, authorities wrongly said they found the jet's charred wreckage and that there were 12 survivors, causing anguish for family members.
Lucky Setiandika, whose wife of only two months was on the plane, has been included in several aerial surveys over remote mountainous terrain. "Where are you? I'm here, please give me a sign," he mumbled as he scanned the thick vegetation with tears in his eyes.
"I still believe my wife is alive," he said.
Adam Air is one of about 30 budget carriers that sprang up in Indonesia after the industry was deregulated in 1998. The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights throughout Indonesia, but has raised concerns about maintenance of the leased planes.