French investigators have confirmed the piece of wing debris that wash ashore on the French island of Reunion is from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the plane that went missing in March 2014 with 239 people on board.
In a live TV address Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed the fragment, known as a flaperon, belonged to the missing airliner.
“Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370,” Najib said, per The Guardian. “We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”
Last week, French investigators confirmed the debris belonged to a Boeing 777, the same make as Flight 370.
In a press conference that came after Nijab’s address, French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak stopped short of saying the wing fragment came from Flight 370. He said that while investigators have “very strong suppositions” it belongs to the plane, further examination is needed.
Boeing design experts, meanwhile, “confirmed that this flaperon was for technical reason quite obviously a Boeing 777 flaperon,” he said. “Representatives of the Malaysia airlines company informed us of the elements of the technical specifications of the MH370 flight, and we were able as a result of this to compare this information with the flaperon of MH370.”
Some experts have theorized the damage suggests that the flaperon may have been deployed when the plane made impact with the water, meaning that someone in the cockpit was still manipulating the controls.
The search for the wreckage continued on Wednesday, with people combing the beaches for more possible debris.
A mangled piece of metal was recently turned over to the authorities, but they said it was actually part of a ladder, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.
The ongoing search for Flight 370 has been continuous since it lost contact with ground crew and shifted course on March 8, 2014.
“The burden and uncertainty faced by the families during this time has been unspeakable,” Najib also said. “It is my hope that this confirmation, however tragic and painful, will at least bring certainty to the families and loved ones of the 239 people onboard MH370.”