MH370 Mystery: Officials confirm wing fragment is from missing f - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

MH370 Mystery: Officials confirm wing fragment is from missing flight

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(NBC News) - The airplane fragment that washed up on an island last week was a piece Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, investigators confirmed Wednesday — the first definitive clue to the greatest mystery in modern aviation.

"I hope that this confirmation, however tragic and painful, will at least bring certainty to the families and loved ones of the 239 people on board MH370," said a somber Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia. "They have our deepest sympathy and prayers."

The fragment — a 6-foot-long, barnacle-encrusted wing flap — was discovered on July 29 by a crew cleaning the beach on Reunion Island, a French territory in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of Africa.

Investigators had already determined that it came from a Boeing 777, and Flight 370 was the only plane of that model missing in the world.

But the confirmation on Wednesday provided the first tangible evidence of what became of the plane after it disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.

Experts have cautioned that the wing piece, known as a flaperon, could provide a clue about the moment when plane hit the water, but will not resolve the basic question of what went wrong on its journey from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

It is also unlikely to pinpoint the location of the body of the airplane. For months, international teams have been searching a swath of the ocean depths much closer to Australia.

Oceanographers say that Indian Ocean currents could easily have carried debris counterclockwise from the search zone toward the coast of Africa in the 17 months since the plane was lost.

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