Investigators probing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are examining an object found off the coast of Mozambique they suspect came from the missing Boeing 777, a person familiar with the investigation said.
The piece turned up on a sandbank in Mozambique Channel where debris from the Indian Ocean washes up, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak about the investigation. It appears to be part of a 777 tail and, since there aren’t any other cases in which that model has crashed, investigators believe it may have come from the plane that went missing almost two years ago, the official said.
Preliminary analysis of photographs by investigators in Malaysia, Australia and the U.S. suggests the piece is a fiberglass and aluminum section from the front of the horizontal stabilizer, according to the official. The piece is marked with the words “NO STEP,” the official said. The discovery was first reported by NBC.
“Based on early reports, high possibility debris found in Mozambique belongs to a B777,” Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a Twitter post. “It is yet to be confirmed & verified” and Malaysian authorities are working with Australian counterparts to retrieve the debris, he said.
Boeing had no immediate comment.
“It’s too speculative at this point for MAS to comment,” Malaysia Airlines said in response to questions from Bloomberg News, referring to itself by its acronym.
If it’s verified, the item would become the second confirmed piece of the jetliner that disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014 while on a routine flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, becoming one of aviation’s most befuddling mysteries. There have been no traces of the 239 people on board, their luggage or even the life jackets that were supposed to float.
A barnacle-encrusted wing flap was found last year on Reunion Island, thousands of miles from the search area off Australia’s west coast. The Mozambique location where the latest find was made is at a similar latitude as Reunion Island, about 1,300 miles (2,000 km) west.
Australia is leading a search of the southern Indian Ocean where investigators believe the plane flew after turning around between Malaysia and Vietnam and heading into one of the most remote areas of the world. The path was estimated from pings between the plane and a satellite after other electronics and radios on the plane stopped functioning.
Some of the world’s most experienced search-and-rescue experts are resigned to the fact that the A$180 million ($130 million) search may fail. Without fresh clues, four ships are due to finish combing the seas off western Australia, Martin Dolan, head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in an interview with Bloomberg News last month. Within a rectangle the size of North Korea, vessels have scoured most of the patch believed to be the probable impact point — and come up empty.