- Flight MH370 disappeared four years ago with 239 people on board.
- A new report on Monday was meant to be the final word, but essentially admitted that nobody knows what really happened.
- It did dismiss some of the more outlandish theories, however.
- One had seen people fixate on the plane’s cargo – a shipment of batteries and mangosteen fruit which some believed could have mixed and combusted.
- Malaysian government investigators dismissed this as “highly improbable” – not least because the products were wrapped and stored apart from each other.
A new report on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went out of its way to dismiss a wild theory that a combustible cocktail of lithium ion batteries and several tons of fruit could have brought down the plane.
MH370 had in its cargo hold 5 tons of mangosteens – a sweet tropical fruit about as big as a tangerine – along with 221kg of lithium-ion batteries.
The items were being carried from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, another source of revenue for the flight along with the 239 people it was carrying.
Some experts believed these two items could have mixed together during flight and caught fire, eventually leading to the plane crashing into the sea.
Aviation expert Clive Irving theorised to The Daily Beast in 2015 that batteries on board could have caused a fire in the hold that overwhelmed the plane’s fire suppression system.
US pilot and aviation engineer Bruce Robertson outlined a similar theory to Australian news website News.com.au, suggesting that such a fire would send deadly carbon monoxide into the cabin.
Another theory was that the batteries and mangosteen fruits could have mixed on the flight, creating a reaction that could cause an explosion or fire in the plane, causing it to lose oxygen or crash.
The new report notes: “There were concerns that the mangosteen extracts could have got into contact with the batteries and produced hazardous fumes or in a worst-case scenario caused a short circuit and/or fire.”
The report said that the notion that the two products got into contact is “highly improbable.” The report said the items were in a hold compartment together, but said both the batteries and fruit were wrapped up and in separate containers.
After carrying out tests, Malaysia’s Science & Technology Research Institute for Defence was “convinced that the two items tested could not be the cause in the disappearance of MH370,” the report claims.
The batteries were not registered as dangerous goods as their packaging adhered to guidelines. They went through customs inspection and clearance before the truck was sealed and left the factory, but were not given any additional security screening before loaded onto the plane.
The report said that this kind of cargo is realtively ordinary. Between January 2014 and May 2014, it said, there were 99 shipments of lithium-ion batteries on Malaysia Airlines flights to Beijing.
The report also disputed speculation that the mangosteen fruits were out of season during the shipment, which led some to suggest their inclusion in the cargo was suspicious. The report states that they were in season in neighbouring countries, where they were harvested.
The fruit was inspected by the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority of Malaysia before it was loaded onto the aircraft.
Between January and May 2014 there were 85 shipments of mangosteens to Beijing. The two were carried together on 26 of these flights. At the time of writing, the same company is still exporting the fruits to China, according to the report.
Everyone who handled the cargo was interviewed by the police, as were the suppliers of the fruit and the battery creators
Monday’s report is the culmination of a search led by the Malaysian government, which covered 112,000 square kilometers (43,243 square miles) in the southern Indian Ocean since January.
This was the second large-scale search for the plane, and followed an earlier, 2-1/2-year search by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
The report found little new evidence as to what might have happened to the plane, but it did reject the pervasive theory that also rejected the theory thata suicidal pilot may have crashed the jet on purpose.
The one new and significant piece of information in the report was that the turn made by MH370, which saw it deviate from its route, was made manually.
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