A piece of a wing that washed up on an Indian Ocean island beach last week was part of the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, Malaysia said on Thursday, confirming the discovery of the first trace of the plane since it vanished last year.
“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,” Prime Minister Najib Razak said in an early morning address.
“I would like to assure all those affected by this tragedy that the government of Malaysia is committed to do everything within our means to find out the truth of what happened,” Najib said.
The announcement, by providing the first direct evidence that the plane crashed in the ocean, closes a chapter in one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history but still gives families of the 239 victims little clue as to why.
“It’s not the end,” said Jacquita Gonzales, who lost her husband Patrick Gomes, a flight attendant on board the aircraft.
“Although they found something, you know, it’s not the end. They still need to find the whole plane and our spouses as well. We still want them back,” she said.
The airline described the discovery as “a major breakthrough for us in resolving the disappearance of MH370.
The fragment of wing known as a flaperon was flown to mainland France after being found last week covered in barnacles on a beach on France’s Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
Despite the Malaysian confirmation it was part of MH370, prosecutors in France, where it was still Wednesday evening, stopped short of declaring they were certain, though they said there was a very strong likelihood it was the case. A piece of luggage also found in Reunion would be examined by French police, they said.