DEVELOPING: Debris possibly linked to missing AirAsia jet has been spotted in the Java Sea, Indonesia Search and Rescue says.
At least 10 objects were found nearly six miles from where the plane lost contact with air traffic control, Sky News reports.
An Indonesian military aircraft spotted white, red and black objects including what appearas to be a life jacket about 105 miles off the coast of Pangkalan Bun. One helicopter has been dispatched to pick up the items for investigation.
“This is the most significant finding, but we cannot confirm anything until the investigation is completed,” he said.
The announcement comes after the U.S. sent a destroyer to help with the search-and-rescue operation Tuesday.
The 7th Fleet said the USS Sampson, which was already on an independent deployment in the Western Pacific, would be at the scene later Tuesday, Fox News confirmed.
AirAsia Flight 8501, an Airbus A320-200 that carried 162 people, disappeared Sunday after seeking permission to climb above threatening clouds.
Based on the plane’s last known coordinates, the aircraft probably crashed into the water and “is at the bottom of the sea,” Indonesia search-and-rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said. Still, searchers planned to expand their efforts onto land on Tuesday.
Searchers spotted two oily patches and floating objects in separate locations, but it was not known any of it was related to the plane that vanished halfway into what should have been a two-hour hop from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. The area is a busy shipping lane. Officials saw little reason to believe the flight met anything but a grim fate.
The air search resumed Tuesday morning, with more assets and an expanded area, said Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo.
He said at least 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters were looking for the jet. Most of the craft were Indonesian but Singapore, Malaysia and Australia contributed to the effort. Aircraft from Thailand planned to join Tuesday’s search.
The search area has been widened, with four military helicopters dispatched just after sunrise near Pangkalan Bun on the western part of Borneo island and to smaller islands of Bangka and Belitung, Bambang Soelistyo said.
“Until now, we have not yet found any signal or indication of the plane’s whereabouts,” Soelistyo told The Associated Press, adding fishermen from Belitung island were also helping.
Jakarta’s air force base commander, Rear Marshal Dwi Putranto, said an Australian Orion aircraft had detected “suspicious” objects near an island about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off central Kalimantan. That’s about 700 miles (1,120 kilometers) from where the plane lost contact, but within Monday’s greatly expanded search area.
“However, we cannot be sure whether it is part of the missing AirAsia plane,” Putranto said. “We are now moving in that direction.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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