REUNION ISLAND – There’s new clues in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 which disappeared more than a year ago, what appears to be a wing flap washed up on shore of Reunion Island, near Madagascar. Compounding on Wednesday’s news of plane debris washing ashore, a new report says a badly damaged suitcase also has been found.
A report from a French local news outlet on Reunion Island, said a municipal employee found a suitcase along the coastline of St. Andrew “at exactly the same place as the aircraft debris found yesterday.” Authorities have yet to publicly comment on the latest finding.
A sea-crusted wing part found on the island in the western Indian Ocean may be the first trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 found since it vanished nearly a year and a half ago, and a tragic but finally solid clue to one of aviation’s most perplexing and expensive mysteries.
The piece includes a marking with letters and numbers. Australia’s deputy prime minister reveled it is BB650, and said it is not a serial or registration number. It could be a maintenance number. Air safety investigators are taking a look but it could take some time before they can confirm whether it is from the missing plane.
Boeing believes the debris could be from a 777, which is the same model that disappeared. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing.
“It’s the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found,” said Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss, whose country is leading the search for the plane in a remote patch of ocean far off Australia’s west coast. “It’s too early to make that judgment, but clearly we are treating this as a major lead.”
Flight 370 had been traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, but investigators believe based on satellite data that the plane turned south into the Indian Ocean after vanishing from radar. If the wing part is from the Malaysia plane, it would bolster that theory and put to rest others that it traveled north, or landed somewhere after being hijacked.
The wing piece is about 2 meters (6 feet) long. Investigators have found a number on the part, but it is not a serial or registration number, Truss said. It could be a maintenance number, which may help investigators figure out what plane it belongs to, he said.
Families of the missing Chinese passengers released a statement saying they want to know with “100 percent certainty” whether this is part of the plane, but also they care more about the whereabouts of their family members.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.