Report: Suitcase found near piece of plane debris

The debris has been called a major lead for tracking Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after it disappeared March 8, 2014.

: In this image taken from video, police officers looking over a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP/Reunion 1ere)

REUNION ISLAND (AP/MEDIA GENERAL) – Compounding on Wednesday’s news of plane debris washing ashore on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, a new report says a badly damaged suitcase also has been found.

A report from linfo.re, a French local news outlet on Reunion Island, said a municipal employee found a suitcase along the coastline of St. Andrew “at exactly the same place as the aircraft debris found yesterday.”

Authorities have yet to publicly comment on the latest finding.

A sea-crusted wing part found on the island in the western Indian Ocean may be the first trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 found since it vanished nearly a year and a half ago, and a tragic but finally solid clue to one of aviation’s most perplexing and expensive mysteries.

Air safety investigators — one of them a Boeing investigator — have identified the component found on the French island of Reunion as a “flaperon” from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, the U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing.

“It’s the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found,” said Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss, whose country is leading the search for the plane in a remote patch of ocean far off Australia’s west coast. “It’s too early to make that judgment, but clearly we are treating this as a major lead.”

Flight 370 had been traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, but investigators believe based on satellite data that the plane turned south into the Indian Ocean after vanishing from radar. If the wing part is from the Malaysia plane, it would bolster that theory and put to rest others that it traveled north, or landed somewhere after being hijacked.

The wing piece is about 2 meters (6 feet) long. Investigators have found a number on the part, but it is not a serial or registration number, Truss said. It could be a maintenance number, which may help investigators figure out what plane it belongs to, he said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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