Seventeen days after Flight MH370 went missing, where and when the Malaysian airliner went down appears to have been resolved alongside the tragic fate of all on board. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the plane carrying 239 people went down in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors.
Razak, dressed in black, read a short statement detailing how the Boeing 777 was tracked using unprecedented satellite technology and that it had gone down far from any possible landing sites.
The fate of those on board was not addressed but in a text message authorities said: “Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The use of text message was criticized as being insensitive. It was perhaps indicative of the times and an embattled government that has struggled to cope and meet international expectations in handling the crisis, in particular getting the latest information out quickly.
Much of the investigation will shift closer to the crash site, probably nearer to Perth, where Australian authorities have long-established relations with American investigators, notably those from the National Transport Security Board (NTSB).
Gathering and sifting through the wreckage and retrieving the black box from waters with an average depth of 3,890 metres will prove difficult. Equally important will be cooperation from the Malaysians.
Those with knowledge of the investigation have been critical of Malaysia’s apparent unwillingness to release and share information, in particular a full cargo manifest detailing what was on board, and especially whether there was dangerous material stowed away.
Of concern is the prospect that lithium batteries were on board, as noted by Jim Hall, a former NTSB chairman, on local radio in the United States. He is keeping an open mind about what brought the plane down.
“I think everything is still on the table. You’ve got to pursue both the possibility of a criminal act as well as a commercial aviation accident. Of concern to me has been the recent fact that’s come out that this aircraft had lithium batteries aboard. That is something I’d certainly like to know more about,” he said.
He added: “There was a UPS aircraft that was investigated by the NTSB that crashed as a result of a fire from lithium batteries. There have been other incidents – most recently, of course, on Boeing’s new aircraft, which is actually powered by a lithium battery.”
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt