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No Breakthrough: 'Object Of Interest' Isn't From Missing Jet

A large piece of metal found earlier this week on the coast of western Australia, which investigators had called an "object of interest" in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people who were on board, is apparently not connected to the missing jet.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau reports that "after examining detailed photographs of material washed ashore 10 kilometers east of Augusta, it is satisfied it is not a lead in relation to the search."

So, the "weeks of false leads and conflicting information about what may have happened to the jet and the 239 people on board" that we cautioned about on Wednesday continue.

As we've said before:

The jet was about one hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early morning hours of March 8 (local time) when it was last heard from. Flight 370 was headed north over the Gulf of Thailand as it approached Vietnamese airspace.

Investigators believe the plane turned west, flew back over the Malay Peninsula, then out over the Indian Ocean before turning south toward Australia. They're basing those conclusions largely on data collected by a satellite system that received some information from the aircraft. The critical question — why did it turn? — remains unanswered.

If the jet did go down in the Indian Ocean west of Australia, "experts say it is likely that debris from the plane could wash up" on the nation's western coast, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. It writes that:

"Busselton underwater observatory manager Sophie Teede said the Leeuwin Current that originates off the coast of Indonesia is able to transport material all the way along the West Australian coast.

" 'Depending on the conditions and what time of year, it can run all the way to Tasmania,' she said."

As for the search for the jet and its passengers, Australian authorities say in a statement that "up to 11 military aircraft and 11 ships" were involved today. They're focusing on an area about 1,000 miles northwest of Perth. Under the surface near where pings from the plane's black boxes may have been detected two weeks ago, more than 90 percent of the area has now been examined by a remote vehicle. "No contacts of interest have been found to date," authorities say.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.