This handout image taken by the Lotter family on March 9, 2016 and released on March 12, 2016 shows a debris found by the family off the coast of Mozambique in December 2015, that could be a part of the missing Malaysian flight MH370. Picture: Candace Lotter/ Handout/ AFP
This handout image taken by the Lotter family on March 9, 2016 and released on March 12, 2016 shows a debris found by the family off the coast of Mozambique in December 2015, that could be a part of the missing Malaysian flight MH370. Picture: Candace Lotter/ Handout/ AFP

Durban key to MH370 mystery?

By Terry van der Walt Time of article published Mar 27, 2016

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A top investigator looking into the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370 has examined plane debris found by a KZN teenager and believes it “almost certainly” comes from the doomed plane that claimed the lives of all 239 people on board.

And it is highly likely that more pieces of debris, furnishings and personal items of passengers will drift ashore on our coast, further intensifying the call for beachgoers to be on the lookout.

Last week relatives of those on board the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing launched a global appeal, Voice370, urging South Africans, fishing vessels and ships to help look for traces of the plane, in what has become the world’s largest aviation investigation.

On Saturday Joe Hattley, of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, tasked with heading the international probe into MH370, told the Sunday Tribune that the piece recovered by Wartburg teenager Liam Lotter, as well as the piece found by Blaine Gibson, both on the Mozambican coast, had been examined by him in Australia last week.

He made a call for people to take a photograph in situ, exactly how they find any flotsam, and to then place it in a plastic bag and notify the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

“The ‘flaperon’ piece found on the island of Reunion on July 29 last year is still with French authorities in Toulouse, and it has been confirmed to have come from the flight. I believe negotiations are under way between the Malaysian authorities and the SACAA to recover the latest piece found on Monday near Mosselbay by Neels Kruger,” said Hattley.

SACAA spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba confirmed this piece had been collected, and would be handed over to Malaysian authorities.

Hattley said that even with these four pieces, it was still impossible to refine the seabed search area, since so many factors could affect the movement of debris.

“It is still very difficult to work out where the plane went down. The drifting patterns of each piece are rather erratic, so the more data we get, including more debris finds, the more we will be able to narrow the search area, which is 120 000km,” he said.

He said Dr David Griffin, an oceanographic expert with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia, had provided useful insights to the crash investigators, using data provided by the Global Drifter Programme (GDP).

The GDP uses data from buoys regularly placed in the ocean over the past 30 years, which record surface temperatures and ocean currents.

This data tends to back up the seabed search area favoured by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau: a vast area of the Indian Ocean, along an arc the plane may have flown before it ran out of fuel. Investigators believe the plane deviated from its flight path, and turned southward near the island of Sumatra.

Griffin believes the flaperon piece found on Reunion was likely to have followed a similar path to that of drifters.

“This data shows that the flaperon probably entered water warmer than 18°C within a month or two of the crash, so barnacle nauplii may have started settling and growing on the flaperon for most of the voyage.

In his report (www.marine.csiro.au/~griffin/MH370/) he concludes: “The flaperon finding does, however, support the flight path analysis conclusion that the 39°S-32°S segment of the seventh arc is indeed the highest priority search region for MH370.”

Hattley said readers who had questions on anything they might find on our shores were welcome to e-mail him on [email protected]

Sunday Tribune

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