U.S. Official Believes Debris in Indian Ocean Belongs to Missing Malaysia Airlines

AIrcraft Debris May Belong to Missing Flight MH370
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to the piece of debris from an aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion
Yannick Pitou/AFP/Getty

07/29/2015 AT 10:15 PM EDT

On Wednesday, officials found debris floating in the Indian Ocean that put them one step closer to solving the mystery of the Malaysian Airlines flight 370, that disappeared without a trace in March last year.

The Associated Press reports that air safety investigators now have a "high degree of confidence" that the debris found is part of a wing belonging exclusively to the Boeing 777 aircraft which is the same model as the missing airliner.

While U.S. investigators are using photographs to examine the piece, it's been confirmed by a French official that French law enforcement is on location examining the component that was found on the French island of Reunion, AP reports. One U.S. official said air safety investigators have identified the debris as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a 777 wing.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai announced Wednesday that he sent a team to verify the origins of the plane debris.





"Whatever wreckage found needs to be further verified before we can ever confirm that it is belonged to MH370," Lai said.

While officials work to confirm the identity of the newly discovered plane wreckage, the seabed search being led by Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner, Martin Dolan, continues. He and a team are searching a remote part of the ocean off the west coast of Australia. According to AP, if the debris is in fact part of MH370, it would compliment the theory that the airliner went down within the 46,00 square mile search area.

"It doesn't rule out our current search area if this were associated with MH370," Dolan told AP. "It is entirely possible that something could have drifted from our current search area to that island."

U.S. Official Believes Debris in Indian Ocean Belongs to Missing Malaysia Airlines| Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

The piece of debris from MH370

Yannick Pitou / AFP / Getty



If the found component is identified as part of the missing aircraft, it will be the first confirmation that plane crashed shortly after taking off on March 8, 2014 – putting to rest any rumors that the plane was hijacked and taken to a remote location for future use.

Since news first broke of the missing plane, families of the 239 passengers on board flight 370 have been left in limbo as multinational search efforts continuously turned up nothing.

"It's a great big gaping hole in everybody's life," Sarah Weeks, sister of Paul Weeks who was a passenger on the flight, told AP. "We need to find out what happened to get closure and move on.”
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