MAKASSAR, Indonesia – 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 U.S. 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, a commodore in the Indonesian navy.
"If that metal turns out to be what we are looking for, then thanks be to God," he said, adding that it was found in three locations within a several-mile radius.
The Adam Air plane left Java island for the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado on New Year's Day, but experienced 80 mph winds and storms halfway through the two-hour flight, forcing it to change course at least twice, officials said.
The pilot never issued a mayday or reported technical problems.
With no emergency location signal to guide more than 3,600 soldiers, police and volunteers searching in the island's dense jungles and surrounding seas, teams have fanned out over a nearly 30,000-square-mile area — close to the size of South Carolina.
Lucky Setiandika, whose wife of only two months was on the plane, has been included in several aerial surveys over remote mountainous terrain, mumbling "Where are you? I'm here, please give me a sign" as he scanned the thick vegetation with tears in his eyes.
"I still believe my wife is alive," the 25-year-old said Monday.
Singapore has been providing aerial surveys and a National Transportation Safety Board team arrived Friday from the U.S., along with representatives from Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration and General Electric, to help investigate the likely crash.
Three Americans — a man from Oregon and his two daughters — were among the plane's passengers. It is not clear if any other foreigners were on board.
A day after the plane disappeared, authorities wrongly said they had found the jet's charred wreckage and that there were 12 survivors, causing anguish among family members, many of whom have been waiting at nearby airports and hotels.
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.
Air navigation can be difficult in Indonesia, which has been called the world's largest archipelago, because there are gaps in the communications systems.