Part of a jetliner's tail, food trays and shards of fuselage were pulled from the ocean in northeastern Indonesia on Thursday, 10 days after a Boeing 737 disappeared in a storm with 102 people on board.
Though no survivors or bodies have been recovered, the news brought some comfort to family members.
"I cried when I heard, but I am now relieved," said Rosmala Dewi, whose daughter was a stewardess on the Adam Air plane that fell off radars over Sulawesi Island's western coast, sparking a massive search over land and sea.
With no emergency locator beacon to guide rescuers, nearly 3,000 soldiers, police and civilians battled thousands of square kilometers (miles) of dense jungle terrain, while sonar-equipped ships and planes spent days scouring the water.
After several false sightings, including one that prompted senior aviation officials to wrongly claim the wreckage had been found with a dozen survivors, a fisherman pulled a huge piece of metal from the Makassar Strait.
Eddy Suyanto, the head of search and rescue operations, said the serial number on the tail's stabilizer - found 300 meters (yards) off of Sulawesi's western coast - confirmed it was part of Adam Air Flight KI-574.
Hundreds of people flocked to beaches close to the coastal town of Parepare, watching and in some cases joining in as soldiers, police, marines and fishermen searched the sea and combed the shore.
A piece of a chair that said "fasten seat belt," a food table and part of a tire were among the objects handed over to authorities.
The jetliner left Java island for the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado on the afternoon of Jan. 1. 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 approached Sulawesi's coast.
Hundreds of anguished family members have been waiting at airports and hotels since the plane disappeared, many growing angry and frustrated as searchers repeatedly turned up empty handed.
"After all this waiting, confirmation that the plane has been found is like being given water in the desert," said Freddy Sumolang. "I hope rescuers will find my daughter."
Eki Rumaser, whose brother was on the plane, agreed: "Dead or alive, I just hope they find him."
On Tuesday, authorities said a Navy ship had detected large pieces of metal on the seabed off Sulawesi, 200 kilometers (130 miles) north of where the parts of tail, cockpit and debris from the cabin emerged.
But they were unable to say whether they were from the downed plane.
The USNS Mary Sears, which has sonar and satellite imagery capabilities, was taking part in the probe. But it was not clear if it would be able to definitely state what the metal was because of the water's depth.
Local fisherman told authorities they had spotted a low-flying, unstable aircraft in the area but lost sight of it after hearing a loud bang.
Suyanto said wreckage from the plane could have drifted hundreds of kilometers (miles) over the last 10 days.
Three Americans - a man from Oregon and his two daughters - were among the plane's 96 passengers. They were believed to be the only foreigners on board.
Adam Air is one of dozens of budget carriers that sprang up in Indonesia after the industry was deregulated in the 1990s. The rapid expansion has led to cheap flights throughout Indonesia, but has raised concerns about maintenance.
A Navy ship had detected large pieces of metal on the seabed off Sulawesi, 130 miles north of where the parts of tail, cockpit and debris from the cabin emerged.
The USNS Mary Sears had confirmed one of the objects at a depth of about 4,500 feet was "round-shaped metal," but that more readings were needed to identify it.
Thousands of soldiers, police and volunteers continue their search on land, heading to two points recommended by U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
Search teams have so far failed to locate the body of the Boeing 737 or its 'black box.'