Malaysia evaluating claims of plane wreckage in Bay of Bengal, new investigator hired

Malaysian authorities Tuesday said that they were assessing claims of plane wreckage found in the northern Bay of Bengal as the possible remains of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

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    Subas Chandran from Malaysia Airlines (c.) and Sayid Ruzaimi Syed Aris from Malaysia's civil aviation department, right brief the relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane at a hotel in Beijing, April 29. Malaysian authorities on Tuesday in Beijing played for the first time the audio communications between flight 370's cockpit and air traffic controllers before the plane disappeared March 8.
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The countries searching for the missing Malaysian jet are assessing a claim by a resource survey company that it found possible plane wreckage in the northern Bay of Bengal, Malaysia's defense minister said Tuesday.

The location is far from where the underwater and surface search has been concentrated for weeks. Australia-based GeoResonance Pty Ltd. stressed that it is not certain it found the Malaysia Airlines plane missing since March 8, but it called for its findings to be investigated.

The company uses imaging, radiation chemistry and other technologies to search for oil, gas or mineral deposits. In hunting for Flight 370, it used the same technology to look on the ocean floor for chemical elements that would be present in a Boeing 777: aluminum, titanium, jet fuel residue and others.

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GeoResonance compared multispectral images taken March 5 and 10 — before and after the plane's disappearance — and found a specific area where the data varied between those dates, it said in a statement. The location is about 190 kilometers (118 miles) south of Bangladesh.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said China and Australia were aware of the announcement. "Malaysia is working with its international partners to assess the credibility of this information," a statement from his office said.

GeoResonance said it began trying to find the plane before the official search area moved to the southern Indian Ocean. "The only motivation is to help the families of the missing passengers and crew, knowing the company has the technology capable of the task," it said.

Flight 370 was carrying 239 passengers and crew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared the morning of March 8. Radar tracking and communications from the cockpit showed the plane reached cruising altitude without incident, but it veered off course for unknown reasons and flew west across the Malay Peninsula.

India, Bangladesh and other countries to the north have said they never detected the plane in their airspace. The jet had contact with a satellite from British company Inmarsat for a few more hours, and investigators have concluded from that data that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

An underwater signal consistent with an aircraft's black boxes was detected in that search area off western Australia on April 8, but no conclusive evidence has been found.

GeoResonance said it gave its preliminary findings to investigators on March 31 and was surprised by a lack of response. That claim could not be confirmed.

In another statement Tuesday the government announced the hiring of Kok Soo Chon, a former director-general at the department of civil aviation, to head up the international investigation into the missing plane.

As Reuters reports: 

Other team members are from the U.S. National Transport Safety Board, Britain's Air Accidents Investigations Branch, China's Aircraft Accident Investigation Department, France's Land Transport Accident Investigation Bureau, the Australia Transport Safety Bureau, aircraft manufacturer Boeing and British satellite communications company Inmarsat.

The team also has representatives from Singapore and Indonesia.

"The main purpose of the international investigation team is to evaluate, investigate and determine the actual cause of the incident so similar incidents could be avoided in the future," Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.

The investigation, he said in a statement, "is not aimed at apportioning blame or liability with regards to the incident".

The search for Flight MH370, which vanished while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board, has so far failed to turn up any trace of wreckage from the plane.

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