Malaysian PM: Flight MH370 ended in southern Indian Ocean

Posted at 03/24/14 10:10 PM

MANILA/KUALA LUMPUR  (4th UPDATE) - Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak  said on Monday night.

He said the conclusion was made based on analysis made by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch and satellite data from Inmarsat.

"Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort,they have been able to shed more light on MH370’s flight path," he said in a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur.

"Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB concluded that the last position of MH370 was in the middle of the Indian Ocean," Najib said.

"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites," he added.

"With deep sadness and regret I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean," he said, short of directly stating that the airplane crashed into the sea.

He said Malaysia Airlines officials have spoken to the families of the passengers and crew to inform them of the development.

"We share this information out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families, two principles guiding this investigation," Najib said.

"I urge the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time," he said.

He added that Malaysian officials will hold a press conference Tuesday to give more details.

'MH370 has been lost'

Malaysia Airlines, in a statement Monday night, said it is assuming "beyond any reasonable doubt" that flight MH370 has been lost.

The statement, which was given to families of the missing aircraft's passengers and crew, echoed Najib's announcement that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean, based on new analysis of satellite data.

"On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time," the airline company said.

"We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain. We will continue to provide assistance and support to you, as we have done since MH370 first disappeared in the early hours of 8 March, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing," it added.

"The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain. Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers," it said.

"We would like to assure you that Malaysia Airlines will continue to give you our full support throughout the difficult weeks and months ahead," it added.

Malaysia Airlines also reportedly told relatives of the 239 people on board the missing passenger jet that it believes the plane went down with no survivors.

"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," it said in a text message to relatives, the BBC reported.

Australian plane spots objects

Earlier Monday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said one of his country's planes spotted two objects during a search of the southern Indian Ocean.

Abbott said it was not known whether the objects came from the Boeing 777 which went missing on March 8.

"Nevertheless we are hopeful that we can recover these objects soon and they will take us a step closer to resolving this tragic mystery," he told the Australian parliament.

Crew members of an Orion plane "reported seeing two objects, the first a grey or green circular object and the second an orange rectangular object," Abbott told parliament on Monday evening.

Australian officials made clear they were different to pieces seen by a Chinese plane earlier in the day.

The Australian naval ship HMAS Success, equipped with a crane, was in the area, about 2,500 kilometers (1,562 miles) southwest of Perth, and would attempt to recover the objects.

It was possible "that the objects could be received within the next few hours, or by tomorrow morning at the latest," Malaysian Transport and Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Hi-tech device

The US Navy added to the sense of an approaching denouement, ordering a specialized device sent to the region to help find the plane's "black box" of flight and cockpit voice data -- crucial in determining what happened to the plane.

The high-tech device can locate black boxes as deep as 20,000 feet (6,060 meters), the US Seventh Fleet said in a statement. The search area ranges from 3,000-4,000 meters deep.

The move was taken to ensure that black box detection can start "as quickly as possible" after confirmed debris is found, it said.

The 30-day signal from the black box is due to fail in less than two weeks.

MH370 vanished without warning on March 8 over the South China Sea en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.

Malaysia believes the plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board. But the absence of firm evidence has fuelled intense speculation and conspiracy theories, and tormented the families of the missing.

The search swung deep into the Indian Ocean last week after initial satellite images depicted large floating objects there.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the search grew to 10 aircraft on Monday with the inclusion of two Chinese military aircraft -- two thirds of passengers were Chinese -- joining Australian, US, and Japanese planes.

China has also dispatched seven ships, adding to British and Australian naval vessels involved.

Grief boils over

Satellite and military radar data suggest MH370 backtracked over the Malaysian peninsula and then flew on -- possibly for hours -- to parts unknown.

Leading theories include a hijacking, pilot sabotage, or a sudden mid-air crisis that incapacitated the flight crew and left the plane to fly on auto-pilot until it ran out of fuel.

Hishammuddin said Malaysian police have interviewed more than 100 people, including families of both the pilot and co-pilot.

If a crash is confirmed, recovering the black box will be far more difficult than for the Air France jet that went down in the Atlantic in 2009, said Charitha Pattiaratchi, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia.

"We have to remember that Air France 447 took two years to find and this is a more challenging region where the environment is much, much harsher. There are bigger waves and it's windier," he said.

Angry relatives shouted at the Malaysian ambassador to China at a meeting in Beijing on Monday as frustrations over the lack of information on the missing flight boiled over once again.

"Respect life, give us back our families," they called, using the phrase that has become their slogan.

Hishammuddin said the search "has taken us half way around the world", with new leads at the moment but nothing conclusive.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the families who are still waiting for news."- with reports from Agence France-Presse, Reuters, ANC