3rd object spotted by satellite brings new lead in jet search

3rd object spotted by satellite brings new lead in jet search

3rd object spotted by satellite brings new lead in jet search


ABC News

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 10:12 AM

(ABC News) -- Chinese investigators received satellite images showing a new object floating in the water, Malaysia officials said at a news conference today, another lead for search crews trying to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was given a piece of paper containing details about the new object, which is located in the southern search corridor for the lost plane. He said the object is about 74 feet long and 43 feet wide, and that China officials will provide further information in the coming hours.

China's State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense released a photo of the object, which was spotted about noon Tuesday in the southern Indian Ocean. It was located about 75 miles southwest of the region where two objects released by Australia were previously seen.

The news conference was concluded early as reporters peppered Hishammuddin with questions about the new development. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared two weeks ago on March 8.

He added that China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos and Kyrgyzstan haven't found anything related to the plane in the northern search corridor.

Search crews scoured the desolate southern Indian Ocean for a third day today, searching for clues into the jetliner's disappearance -- and trying to find two objects that had been spotted there six days ago. Six planes took off to search for possible parts of the plane, checking waters about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth.

Nothing of note has been found so far today, Acting Australian Prime Minister Warren Truss said at a press conference in Perth.

Weather is adding further difficulty to the search efforts. A tropical storm is headed for the search area, Truss said, with strong winds expected.

Satellite images released by Australia showed two objects – the biggest about 80 feet long – in the southern Indian Ocean. Those images were taken March 16, but the search in the area did not start until Thursday, March 20, because it took time to analyze the images.

Truss wonders if the delay means search crews missed their chance to find the objects.

“The fact that it's six days ago that this imagery was captured does mean, clearly, what objects that were there are likely to have moved a significant distance as a result of currents and winds. It’s also possible of course that they’ve just drifted to the bottom of the ocean bed,” he said.

Truss remains optimistic about the search efforts.

“It is a very remote area, but we intend to continue the search until we’re absolutely satisfied that further searching would be futile. And that day is not in sight,” he said.

 Aircraft in the Indian Ocean included two ultra-long-range commercial jets and four P3 Orions, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Because of the distance to the area, the Orions will have enough fuel to search for two hours, while the commercial jets can stay for five hours before heading back to the base.

Two merchant ships were in the area, and the HMAS Success, a navy supply ship, was due to arrive late Saturday afternoon. Weather in the search zone was expected to be relatively good, with some cloud cover.

Two Chinese aircraft are expected to arrive in Perth on Saturday to join the search, and two Japanese planes will arrive Sunday. A small flotilla of ships from China is still several days away. The Malaysian plane passengers included 154 Chinese.

Malaysia – which is overseeing the overall search efforts – asked the U.S. for undersea surveillance equipment to help in the search, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promised to assess the availability of the technology and its usefulness in the search, Kirby said.

The Pentagon says it has spent $2.5 million to operate ships and aircraft in the search and has budgeted another $1.5 million for the efforts.

There is a limited battery life for the beacons in the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders — about 30 days, said Chuck Schofield, vice president of business development for Dukane Seacom Inc. He said it's "very likely" that his company made the beacons on the missing jet. The devices work to a depth of 20,000 feet, with a signal range of about 2 nautical miles, depending on variables like sea conditions. The signals are located using a device operated on the surface of the water or towed to a depth.

 Experts say it is impossible to tell if the grainy satellite images of the two objects were debris from the plane. But officials have called this the best lead so far in the search that began March 8 after the plane vanished over the Gulf of Thailand on an overnight flight to Beijing.

For relatives of those aboard the plane, which went missing March 8, hope was slipping away, said Nan Jinyan, sister-in-law of passenger Yan Ling.

"I'm psychologically prepared for the worst and I know the chances of them coming back alive are extremely small," said Nan, one of dozens of relatives gathered at a Beijing hotel awaiting any word about their loved ones.

 Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.