MH370 crew and passengers likely suffocated as plane flew on autopilot: Australia

MH370 crew and passengers likely suffocated as plane flew on autopilot: Australia
A visitor (left) writes on a placard carrying messages for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during the 4th International Search and Rescue Conference and Exhibition (iSAR) in Kuala Lumpur on June 17, 2014.

SYDNEY - The passengers and crew of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 most likely died from suffocation and coasted lifelessly into the ocean on autopilot, a new report released by Australian officials said.

In a 55-page report released on Thursday, the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) outlined how investigators had arrived at this conclusion after comparing the conditions on the flight with previous disasters, although it contained no new evidence from within the jetliner.

The report narrowed down the possible final resting place from thousands of possible routes, while noting the absence of communications and the steady flight path and a number of other key abnormalities in the course of the ill-fated flight.

"Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew, hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370's flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction," the ATSB report said.

All of that suggested that the plane most likely crashed farther south into the Indian Ocean than previously thought, Australian officials also said, leading them to announce a shift farther south within the prior search area.

The new analysis comes more than 100 days after the Boeing 777, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared on March 8 shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. Investigators say what little evidence they have to work with suggests the plane was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.

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