MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - The AirAsia flight QZ8501's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) has reportedly been found in waters near Mamuju, West Sulawesi, during search operations conducted in the area.
"On Sunday, a local fisherman found the ELT in waters near a beach in Mamuju regency. It seems the ELT can no longer function, however," said the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) in Mamuju, Muhammad Rizal.
The ELT would show the plane's final position before its crash. As the transmitter no longer functions, however, it is unlikely that authorities will be able to determine flight QZ8501's final position.
Indonesian rescuers had resumed on Sunday their search for the 86 victims still missing from the AirAsia plane that crashed on Dec 28 with 162 people on board, following a two-day break.
As of Monday, the joint SAR team had found seven bodies, all suspected to have been passengers on board flight QZ8501 that crashed into the waters of the Karimata Strait, Central Kalimantan.
All bodies have been recovered and sent to Bhayangkara Hospital in Surabaya, East Java, for identification.
Muhammad said that in addition to the bodies, locals had also found objects thought to be sections of the crashed AirAsia aircraft, including seats, aircraft cabin, fiber-made interiors, as well as a box with antennas emblazoned with the words, "emergency locator transmitter".
The Basarnas head added that during the search on Sunday, one body was found not far from the Tubo Sendana district beach in Majene regency, West Sulawesi.
The SAR team suspected the victim was a child, but could not be certain due to the severity of the crash and the weeks that had passed.
Basarnas has sent the body to Bhayangkara Hospital in Surabaya to confirm the victim was a passenger on flight QZ8501.
Basarnas Makassar head Roki Azikin said the ELT, together with pieces of the aircraft and other objects, had been taken to the joint SAR team post in Majene regency before being sent to Makassar and Surabaya.
"We will hand it over the ELT to the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) for an examination to confirm it was part of the AirAsia aircraft," he said, adding that the search operation had been expanded from Majene and Mamuju to Pinrang and Pare-pare in South Sulawesi.