A piece of an airplane wing found last month on Pemba Island, near Tanzania, is "highly likely" from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, Darren Chester, Australia's minister of infrastructure and transport said Friday. Over the last few months, several debris pieces have been found that have been linked to the missing Boeing 777-200.
“The wing part was found in Tanzania and transported to Australia for analysis by ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau),” Chester said, in a statement. “The experts will continue to analyze this piece to assess what information can be determined from it.”
A flaperon found last year in the French-controlled Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean has been confirmed to be from the missing plane, following which four other parts this year have been said to be "likely" from the jet.
In April, the ATSB, which is leading the search for the plane, confirmed that two debris pieces — a segment of Boeing 777 engine cowling and an interior panel from the main cabin — found on the beaches in Mossel Bay, South Africa, and Rodrigues Island in Mauritius, were "almost certainly" from the missing plane. The agency also said two items from Mozambique, which were found on Dec. 27, 2015, and Feb. 27, 2016, provided almost irrefutable evidence that the parts were from the missing plane.
A multimillion-dollar search for the missing plane has so far yielded no concrete clues as to what happened to the plane, while several conspiracy theories continue to make the rounds. Last week, Malaysia, China and Australia announced that they will be suspending the underwater search for Flight MH370 in a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have gone down, once the designated area has been scoured. Nearly $135 million has so far been spent since the underwater search of the 46,332 sq. mile area began in 2014.
On Friday, Chester said that unfavorable weather conditions could delay the operations until December.
“We remain hopeful that the aircraft will be located in the remaining search area,” Chester said. “As agreed by Ministers from Malaysia and the People's Republic of China and Australia at the tripartite meeting on 22 July 2016, in the event that the aircraft is not located in the current area, the search for MH370 will be suspended on the completion of the 120,000 square kilometer high priority search area unless credible new evidence about the specific location of the aircraft emerges.”
The same day as news of the latest debris piece's link to the missing plane came to light, families of those on board the missing Flight MH370 protested against the tripartite decision to suspend the search.
“We oppose their decision. We don’t recognize it at all. That decision has no reason behind it,” Boa Lanfang, 65, whose son, daughter-in-law and grandson were on the flight, reportedly said.
Flight MH370 went off radar on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Most recently, a report in New York Magazine suggested that the pilot of the Boeing 777 had crashed the aircraft in order to commit suicide, citing leaked FBI documents that showed a similar course on pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home flight simulator. However, ATSB later refuted the report saying that the data from the home flight simulator only hinted at possible planning.