The list of objects retrieved from the coastline of La Reunion — those associated with missing flight MH370 — is growing, but so are doubts about their relevance.
No photos have emerged to validate a report that an aircraft door has washed ashore on the Indian Ocean island near Mauritius, nor has there been any confirmation of such a find by La Reunion police, who have been happy for people to watch on and record their work on mobile phones.
And it has now been clarified that a list of found objects included two suitcases that were burnt by a worker on a beach clean-up squad in the last three months. During the beach clean-up an object that might have been a plane seat was also put to the flames.
The 777 flaperon wing part that has now been taken for examination to a laboratory in Toulouse, in southern France, might even have been used as a table on a beach on the island as far back as May this year.
The burnt objects might not be in a recoverable state, and it might not be possible to determine if they were from MH370.
In short, there is more detail but less excitement coming through from today’s coastal searching for potential items from MH370.
The new debris adds to one previously found, partly rusted suitcase now considered less likely to have come from the Malaysia Airlines jet, and some small water bottles that might match those that were made available to passengers on the flight, which vanished on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board on March 8, 2014.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
The initial talk on the island that an aircraft door has been found in another coastal location isn’t measuring up on the available information. There are six main passenger doors on a 777 as well as below-cabin hatches that ought to be unmistakeable as coming off a large, wide-body jet.
Of crucial interest would be if a door showed signs of major structural damage from a high-energy impact or appeared to have been opened from within, as part of an evacuation, together with any signs of the emergency slide mechanisms attached to the structure.
If these unconfirmed reports of additional debris possibly from MH370 are true, these objects should provide crucial evidence as to the circumstances of the crash as being violent or more a controlled ditching.
Passenger luggage, if retrieved, should lead to its being identified as belonging to individual passengers or family groups.
Much depends on more information from the authorities on La Reunion or photos appearing on social media.
The Australia-managed, Malaysia-directed seabed search for the wreckage of MH370 is focused on finding the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder on the Boeing 777-200ER.
On specialist forums there are concerns that the two data recorders on MH370 might have been tampered with, and various ways of working around the safeguards built into those black boxes have been canvassed.
The voice recorder on its own would have, in normal operations, only retained the last few hours of cockpit sounds if it was working at all, but even if no one were alive in the cockpit in those final hours, such a recording should have captured automated audible alerts, which might help to determine what happened on board.
Passenger possessions such as iPads and mobile phones could also have preserved images of what happened in the cabin, including whether the oxygen masks dropped, and perhaps even recorded messages from their owners.
It’s reasonable to conclude that a major beach-combing exercise along the often-rocky and difficult-to-access coastline of La Reunion is imminent.