Cause, Site of Indonesian Jetliner Crash Sought

Investigators scoured for clues Friday as to what caused an Indonesian jetliner carrying 102 people to crash into the sea after pieces of the aircraft washed to shore or were picked up by fisherman.

Search teams have so far failed to locate the body of the Boeing 737 or its flight data recorder, also known as a black box - key to solving the mystery. No bodies or survivors have been found.

The Adam Air plane disappeared on New Year's Day, but wreckage was not found until more than a week later, when a fisherman pulled a sheared piece of the tail from waters 300 meters (yards) from Sulawesi Island's western coast.

Since then food trays, life vests and fuselage have been recovered, said Lt. Col. Pramudya Pribadi, a military commander who was leading search operations in the coastal district of Barru.

"If the black box is not found, then it is impossible to find out the cause and the case will be closed," said Ruth Simatupang, an aviation specialist at Indonesia's National Transport Safety Commission.

She said Indonesia would have to use a submarine to retrieve the black box if it was at the bottom of the sea, which reaches depths of 1,500 meters in that area.

One official was quoted as saying that could cost millions of dollars.

The jetliner left Java island for the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado on New Year's Day - what should have been a two-hour flight. The pilot twice changed course after battling 130 kph (80 mph) winds, but did not issue a mayday or report technical difficulties before losing all contact as it headed over Sulawesi's coast.

With no emergency locator beacon to guide rescuers, nearly 3,000 soldiers, police and civilians scoured thousands of square kilometers (miles) of dense jungle terrain looking for wreckage of the plane, while sonar-equipped ships and planes combed the choppy waters.

After several false sightings - including one that prompted high-ranking Indonesian officials to wrongly claim the wreckage had been found with a dozen survivors - family members of passengers said they were relieved it had been found.

"After all this waiting ... it is like being given water in the desert," said Freddy Sumolang, whose daughter Inggrid was on the flight with her husband and their two children. "I hope rescuers will find my daughter and her family."

Eki Rumaser, 43, whose younger brother, Benny, was on the plane, agreed: "Dead or alive, I just hope they find him."


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