Part of a jetliner's tail, food trays and shards of fuselage were pulled from the sea in northeastern Indonesia, officials said Thursday, more than a week after the plane disappeared in a storm with 102 people on board.
No survivors or bodies were recovered, but the news brought some comfort to family members of missing passengers.
"I cried when I heard, but I am now relieved," said Rosmala Dewi, whose 19-year-old daughter was a flight attendant on the domestic carrier that disappeared from radar over Sulawesi island's western coast, sparking a massive land and sea search.
Three Americans — a man from Oregon and his two daughters — also were aboard.
With no emergency locator beacon to guide rescuers, nearly 3,000 soldiers, police and civilians scoured thousands of square 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 -- a fisherman on Wednesday pulled a sheared piece of the tail from the waters between Sulawesi and Borneo islands.
Eddy Suyanto, the head of search and rescue operations, said the serial number on the tail stabilizer -- found 300 yards from shore -- confirmed it was part of the Adam Air Boeing 737 that disappeared.
Fishermen and bystanders then joined authorities to search the nearby sea and shore, turning up a piece of a chair that said "fasten seat belt," a food table and part of a tire.
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 80 mph winds, but did not issue a mayday or report technical difficulties before losing all contact as it headed over 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, day after day, searchers 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, 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."
Suyanto said the search would continue for passengers, but added that currents were strong and bodies and debris could have drifted hundreds of miles.
On Tuesday, an Indonesian naval vessel detected large pieces of metal on the seabed about 130 miles from where the tail, cockpit and cabin parts were found. A U.S. Navy ship with sonar and satellite imagery capabilities was deployed to the area, but it was unclear whether it would be able to determine if the objects were part of the downed plane because of the water's depth.
By Zakki Hakim, Associated Press Writer
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)