Malaysia Sets Up New Investigation Team for MH370


Australian investigators looking for Flight 370 are studying unidentified material that washed ashore as Malaysia set up a global investigation team after a 47-day search failed to find debris from thepassenger jet.

Western Australia Police have secured the material and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is examining photographs to determine whether there is any link to MH370, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement today. No details of the object, which washed ashore 10 kilometers east of Augusta, near Perth, were provided.

Photographs have been provided to Malaysia, which today set up an international team to investigate the disappearance. The team will consist of three groups with specific focus areas and members will be announced next week, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in Kuala Lumpur. Criminal investigation won’t be part of their brief, he said.

“Main purpose of the international investigation team is to evaluate, investigate and determine actual cause of the accident, so similar accidents could be avoided in the future,” Hishammuddin said.

An airworthiness group will look into issues such as maintenance records, he said. An operational group will examine flight recorders, operations and meteorology while a medical and human factors group will investigate issues such as psychology, pathology and survival factors, Hishammuddin said.

Flight 370’s disappearance has baffled authorities because contact was lost less than an hour into a routine trip March 8 to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The widebody plane vanished from civilian radars while headed north over the Gulf of Thailand, then doubled back and flew over Peninsular Malaysia and on into some of the world’s most remote waters.

Motive Unknown

While the motive behind that heading remains unknown, MH370 was deliberately steered south on a path ending in the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said.

A preliminary report on the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) plane that disappeared with 239 people on board has been issued to the International Civil Aviation Organization, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, said today. No decision has been taken on whether to release that to the public, he said.

The Bluefin-21 submarine’s search for the missing plane enters its second week of dives in theIndian Ocean to find wreckage. Almost 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) below the surface of the Indian Ocean, the Bluefin-21 is nearing the end of a sweep across a circular surveillance zone with a 6-mile radius.

Air Search

The sub is bouncing sound waves off the pitch-black Indian Ocean floor to create images of the seabed in hopes of pinpointing debris from the plane. More than 80 percent of the target area has been checked without any “contacts of interest,” Australia’s JACC said today.

For a second straight day, investigators had to suspend an air search because of foul weather, the JACC said in an e-mail. Three aircraft that had already departed to the search area were recalled while 12 ships continued scouring the region, it said.

“We are not going to abandon the families of the six Australian citizens who were on that plane,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra today. “We are not going to let down the families of the 239 people who were on that plane by lightly surrendering while there is reasonable hope of finding something.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Ranjeetha Pakiam in Kuala Lumpur at[email protected]; Manirajan Ramasamy in Kuala Lumpur at[email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at[email protected] Shamim Adam