JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian navy ship, part of the search effort for a missing commercial airliner, detected on Monday a large object under the sea off the west coast of Sulawesi but it has not been confirmed whether it was the plane.
The 17-year-old Boeing 737-400 operated by Indonesian budget carrier Adam Air went missing in bad weather on Jan. 1 after its pilot reported crosswinds and asked for safe coordinates from the airport in Makassar, Sulawesi island's largest city.
"We suspect that it was a metal object 1,050 metres under the sea off Mamuju. It could not be confirmed yet whether it was the Adam Air plane," Tony Syaiful, the spokesman of the navy's Eastern Fleet, told Jakarta-based Radio Elshinta.
Mamuju is a seaside town in West Sulawesi province.
Indonesian officials will be cautious in announcing any discovery after erroneously saying the plane had been spotted in Sulawesi's mountains on Tuesday when accounts from a local village were relayed to the highest level without checks.
The circulation of the report drew strong criticism from politicians and relatives of the flight passengers.
The ill-fated plane heading for North Sulawesi provincial capital Manado carried 96 passengers and six crew.
A U.S. ship with sonar capability and the ability to detect underwater metal, USNS Mary Sears, is due to arrive on Tuesday to join the search.