Malaysian police say Flight 370 probe may be lengthy, might not determine why plane vanished

Published: April 2, 2014

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In this photo taken April 29, 2014 provided by the Australia Defence Force, multinational air-crew and aircraft involved in operation "Southern Indian Ocean" are assembled for a photo at RAAF Base Pearce, in Perth, Western Australia. Seven nations, including Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., South Korea, Malaysia, China and Japan, have flew daily search mission out to the southern Indian Ocean in the massive multinational hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. AP Photo/Australian Defence Force, Cpl. Nicci Freeman

EILEEN NG and NICK PERRY
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A police investigation may never determine the reason why the Malaysia Airlines jetliner disappeared, and search planes scouring the Indian Ocean for any sign of its wreckage aren’t certain to find anything either, officials said Wednesday.

The assessment by Malaysian and Australian officials underscored the lack of knowledge authorities have about what happened on Flight 370. It also points to a scenario that becomes more likely with every passing day — that the fate of the Boeing 777 and the 239 people on board might remain a mystery forever.

Lt. j.g. Nick Horton (L) and Lt. Clayton Hunt, naval aviators assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16, perform preflight checks in the flight station of a P-8A Poseidon prior to a mission on April 1, 2014, from Perth Australia, to assist in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. KEITH DEVINNEY/AFP/Getty Images

The plane disappeared March 8 on a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur after its transponders, which make the plane visible to commercial radar, were shut off. Military radar picked up the jet just under an hour later, on the other side of the Malay Peninsula. Authorities say that until then its “movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” but have not ruled out anything, including mechanical error.

Police are investigating the pilots and crew for any evidence suggesting they may have hijacked or sabotaged the plane. The backgrounds of the passengers, two-thirds of whom were Chinese, have been checked by local and international investigators and nothing suspicious has been found.

“Investigations may go on and on and on. We have to clear every little thing,” Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters. “At the end of the investigations, we may not even know the real cause. We may not even know the reason for this incident.”

Police are also investigating the cargo and the food served on the plane to eliminate possible poisoning of passengers and crew, he said.

The search for the plane began over the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea, where the plane’s last communications were, and then shifted west to the Strait of Malacca, where it was last spotted by military radar. Experts then analyzed hourly satellite “handshakes” between the plane and a satellite and now believe it crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

A search there began just over two weeks ago, and now involves at least nine ships and nine planes.

The British government said a nuclear-powered submarine with advanced underwater search capability had arrived in the southern Indian Ocean.

The current search area is a 221,000-square kilometre (85,000-square mile) patch of sea roughly a 2 1/2-hour flight from Perth.

Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency co-ordinating the multinational search effort out of Australia, said no time frame had been set for the search to end, but that a new approach would be needed if nothing showed up.

“Over time, if we don’t find anything on the surface, we’re going to have to think about what we do next, because clearly it’s vitally important for the families, it’s vitally important for the governments involved that we find this airplane,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Flight Lieutenant Dave O’Brien, captain of an Australian P-3 Orion that arrived back after dark Wednesday at base Pearce near Perth, said it was another fruitless day of searching despite favourable weather and sea conditions.

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