A towelette in a sealed packet with the Malaysia Airlines logo that washed up on a beach in Western Australia is being examined and tested by experts in Canberra, Australia, for any bit of evidence that could link it to the ill-fated flight, 9 News reports.
The sealed packet containing a pre-moistened paper towel was found in July last year by an Australian couple, Kingsley and Vicky Miller, while walking along the beach at Cervantes, about 200 kilometers north of Perth, Western Australia. The location is nearly 2,000 kilometers away from the area off the coast of Western Australia, where search for the missing airline is currently focused.
The couple said that they found the packet “unopened, which was very unusual.” According to Mr. Miller, “if it had been opened and found lying there it would have been completely different.”
Although some reports claimed that officials said the towelette “was not from MH370,” while others claimed that officials said the “towelette was unlikely from MH370,” what officials actually said was that it was unlikely that tests would be able to link the towelette conclusively to MH370 or yield evidence that could give any useful information about its location.
The official statement did not rule out the possibility that the towelette actually came from the missing flight. It only said that it was unlikely that tests would be able to give conclusive evidence about the origin of the towelette.
“A 6cm x 8cm moist towelette in wrapping branded with the Malaysia Airlines logo was found at Thirsty Point on 2 July 2014. It was handed in to the WA police. It is unlikely, however, that such a common item with no unique identifier could be conclusively linked with MH370.”
News of the latest development comes only days after the one year anniversary of the March 8, 2014, disappearance of the Boeing 777 flight with 239 people on board. Relatives of the passengers gathered in several cities, including Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, in remembrance of their missing loved ones and to demand answers from the authorities.
Majority of the passengers on board flight MH370 were Chinese citizens.
The news also comes after a 584-page interim report issued by Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation revealed that the battery of the locator beacon of the Flight Data Recorder had expired more than a year before the accident. This means that those searching for the missing aircraft had less chance of finding the plane even if they had come close to where it was lying in the ocean.
However, Malaysia Airlines said in a statement released Monday that the battery on the locator beacon of the cockpit voice recorder was still working.
The 584-page report also raised concerns about Malaysia Airline’s handling of a shipment of “mobile phone-type” batteries aboard the flight. The report expressed concern that the shipment was not screened before being loaded on to the flight and that it might have overheated mid-flight, caught fire and filled the cabin with poisonous fumes.
Some airlines have actually banned the transportation of large quantities of lithium-ion batteries out of fear that they could overheat and catch fire mid-flight.
The report raised other issues, such as a long delay in response from air traffic control due to a shift change during which the air traffic control supervisor was sleeping.
The delay is believed to have contributed to the current difficulties in locating the plane.
However, the report emphasized that “The sole objective of the investigation is the prevention of future accidents or incidents and not for the purpose to apportion blame or liability.”
Flight MH370 to Beijing disappeared from civilian radar after its transponder and other tracking devices were switched off soon after the flight took off from Kuala Lumpur. But the country’s military radar continued tracking it as it was diverted from its course southwards in the direction of the Indian Ocean.
The plane is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles off the coast of Western Australia.
The circumstances of diversion of the passenger plane had raised concerns about the mental health of the crew, due to suspicions that the flight was diverted on a suicide journey.
But investigators have insisted there is no evidence that any member of the crew had any record, known history, or symptoms of mental illness. There was also no evidence that any of them had financial problems or exhibited unusual spending behavior before the flight.
Investigators said in a report that they found “no significant changes” in the lifestyle of the Flight Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, or evidence of “interpersonal conflict or family stresses… [and] no behavioral signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse” by any member of the crew.
Although search for the plane continues, in January, the government of Malaysia formally declared the disappearance of the Boeing 777 flight as an accident.
All passengers on board the plane were presumed dead.
[Images via Twitter]