Indonesia search chief says reports that missing Aviastar plane has been found are unconfirmed

Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo shows a map of the search area for the missing Aviastar plane, at Sultan Hasanuddin airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Oct 3, 2015.
Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo shows a map of the search area for the missing Aviastar plane, at Sultan Hasanuddin airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Oct 3, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

MAKASSAR, Indonesia (AFP) - Indonesia's search-and-rescue agency said on Monday (Oct 5) that one of its teams may have located on land the wreckage of an Aviastar plane carrying 10 people that vanished three days ago, but cautioned that officials would only be able to confirm whether it had been found on Tuesday.

Rescue teams on Monday scoured the sea and trekked through rugged terrain on a central Indonesian island in an expanding search for the plane.

"The Aviastar plane has finally been found. The plane was found on Mount Latimojong by the National Police search team that has been searching the mountain for two days," Kompas.com quoted South and West Sulawesi police spokesman, Senior Commissioner F Barung Mangera, as saying.

But National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said the news had yet to be confirmed. "I have heard of the report but have yet to confirm. I am still on the ground. As it is already night, I will confirm tomorrow morning," he told Kompas TV on Monday.

Mr Soelistyo said that a team of rescuers and local people had reported spotting the plane's main body in a remote location.

But he said the information was not yet confirmed, and he would head to the site himself by plane early on Tuesday to confirm the sighting.

According to him, he needs to confirm with the search team before issuing a statement.

"I understand family members are waiting for information but it will be worse if I convey inaccurate news," he said.

The Twin Otter DHC-6 aircraft carrying four adult passengers, three children and three crew lost contact last Friday with air traffic control shortly after taking off from Masamba airport on Sulawesi island en route for the city of Makassar to the south.

After two days of hunting on land in remote terrain failed to turn up any sign of the missing aircraft, the search area was extended on Monday to include a gulf, with four boats and four planes scouring the waters, the rescue agency said.

The effort also was expanded on land.

Aviastar is an Indonesian domestic passenger airline.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, has a poor aviation safety record and has suffered a string of deadly plane crashes in recent times.