Thursday 18 January 2018

Flight 370 families call for debris to be examined

American wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson Photo: AP Photo/Rod McGuirk
American wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson Photo: AP Photo/Rod McGuirk

Rod McGuirk

Relatives of some of the 239 passengers and crew on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have called for more of its possible debris to be examined to define a new search area.

Malaysia, China and Australia agreed in July that the search in the southern Indian Ocean would be suspended after the current 120,000sq. km expanse had been thoroughly examined with deep sea sonar equipment in the absence of credible new evidence that identified the plane's location.

Eight relatives of lost passengers who met with Australian officials co-ordinating the search on behalf of Malaysia expressed frustration that they were not given a definition of what constituted credible new evidence that would result in a continuation of the search.

US wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson attended the meeting at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau headquarters with the relatives from Malaysia, China, Australia and Indonesia and handed over to investigators five pieces of potential debris he found on beaches in Madagascar. Two of the pieces were burnt, which could indicate a fire on board, he said.

Mr Gibson previously found a panel from Flight 370 in Mozambique. Malaysia has yet to collect other potential debris he has found washed up on Madagascar since June and handed to authorities there.

"I hope that the search will go on and in my amateur opinion this constitutes new, credible evidence that justifies continuing the search," he told reporters of his unconfirmed debris find.

Some confirmed pieces of debris have washed ashore in the western Indian Ocean, and the families believe other items yet to be examined may be clues to the plane's location.

Grace Nathan, a Malaysian whose mother was on the Boeing 777 that vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, said governments should be co-ordinating a search for debris and using drift modelling to define a new area to search after the current search ends in December. "We want to call on the three nations - Australia, China and Malaysia - to make a concerted effort to go out and look for this credible new information," Ms Nathan said.

"It's very impressive that one private individual citizen, Blaine Alan Gibson, has managed to find up to 15 pieces of aircraft debris and we hope that these three nations do more than just hope by fluke people find more debris," she added.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed that it had received debris from Mr Gibson and was seeking advice from Malaysia on how Australia should proceed.

Oceanographers are analysing the first piece of wreckage found, a wing flap that washed up on Reunion Island in July last year, in the hope of narrowing a possible next search area through drift modelling.

Irish Independent

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