Ten days after an Indonesian commercial airliner went missing in eastern Indonesia with 102 people aboard, debris from the plane has been found by a fisherman off the coast of Sulawesi Island.
A fisherman came across, on Wednesday night, in waters near Pare-Pare in South Sulawesi province a floating, 2-metre-wide tail stabiliser, with a registration number matching the Boeing 737-400 that vanished on New Year’s Day, First Air Marshall Eddy Suyanto of the Indonesian Air Force, who leads the search operation, said on Thursday.
The missing jet was operated by Indonesia’ budget carrier Adam Air.
The left tail stabiliser was found in Pare-Pare, about 300 metres off the beach. The town is some 1,200 kilometres north-east of Jakarta.
The ill-fated flight KI-574 was carrying 96 passengers – including three US citizens – and a crew of six when it disappeared from radar during a scheduled flight from Surabaya, capital of East Java province, to Manado, North Sulawesi provincial capital.
“Hopefully the discovery will help shed some light on the missing plane,” Indonesia’s Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa remarked.
The police chief of Pare-Pare told reporters that the body of a woman was found floating near the port, but it was not known whether the body was of a passenger on the doomed flight. “The person appears to have died several days ago,” police said. No identification was found on the woman, who had scars on her feet.
In fact, the whole search exercise for the missing jetliner has been one of frustration and bungling. Indonesian officials had said, one day after the crash, that the plane had been found with 12 survivors, but later they had to cancel the report as a local rumour.
Officials also released other pieces of crucial information which they later had to retract, including that the plane’s pilot had sent out a distress signal before disappearing in bad weather.
Aircraft and ships from Singapore, Canada and the United States joined in the search after a massive sea, air and land operation led by the Indonesian armed forces failed to find a trace of the plane.
Adam Air is one of dozens of budget carriers that sprang up in Indonesia after deregulation of the domestic aviation industry in 1999. Accidents involving those carriers have raised concerns about their safety and maintenance practices.