After 515 Days, Authorities Confirm Piece of MH370 Found on Réunion Island

MH370 debris found on island of La Reunion
French police inspect a large piece of plane debris from Flight MH370, which was found on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion, on July 29. Zinfos974/Prisca Bigot/Files/Reuters

Updated | Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the plane fragment found on Réunion Island were from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared over a year ago. The debris was first found on July 29.

The wing fragment was found 3,800 miles from MH370's last known location. Réunion Island is 2,300 miles away from the center of the search area. A local man found a suitcase about 10 feet from the fragment. French authorities are investigating the suitcase but have not yet confirmed it is from MH370.

MH370 had 239 people on board and was traveling from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing when it disappeared on March 8, 2014. Everyone on board is presumed dead. No debris was found prior to July 29.

Najib added he was committed to finding out how and why MH370 went down. "Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Réunion Island is indeed from MH370," Najib said at a press conference.

Mackowiak said Parisian officials relied on Boeing to help verify that the plane part was from MH370. Design experts from Boeing confirmed the wing piece was from a Boeing 777.

Family members of those on board were notified through a mass text message. Many relatives of the passengers live in Malaysia, and the timing of the message, sent in the middle of the night, means they may not yet be aware of the findings.

"Malaysia Airlines would like to sincerely convey our deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the passengers onboard Flight MH370 on the news that the flaperon found on Réunion Island on 29 July was indeed from Flight MH370," the airline said in a statement. "This is indeed a major breakthrough for us in resolving the disappearance of MH370. We expect and hope that there would be more objects to be found which would be able to help resolve this mystery."