Investigators learned Thursday that a series of numbers found inside the plane flaperon matches records held by a Spanish company that manufactured portions of the component, linking the debris to MH370, the office of Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said.
"Consequently, it is possible today to affirm with certainty that the flaperon discovered at the Reunion Island on July 29, 2015, is that of MH370," the office said.
The announcement slices the last thread of public reservation that Molins' office had about whether the debris was linked to the Boeing 777 that disappeared with 239 people aboard in March 2014.
The Malaysian Prime Minister said weeks ago
that the debris, found in July on the shores of the French island in the Indian Ocean, clearly was from MH370. French investigators, however, had said that further testing was needed to say that with ironclad confidence. Some passengers' relatives agreed, saying they wanted more proof.
French investigators now believe they have it. France, which already had launched a criminal probe into the disappearance because four French nationals were aboard, sent the debris to a specialized laboratory in Toulouse last month.
Families push for the whole story
Jack Song, brother of passenger Song Chunling, said the piece of debris does not tell then whole story.
"From my opinion, it doesn't matter whether it's from 370 or not," he said. "Because it's just one piece of debris. Not the whole airplane. That doesn't mean anything. Doesn't tell where the plane is or what happened. We need the whole plane, and we need the exact place where the aircraft is."
Molins' office said that experts using an endoscope found three series of numbers inside the flaperon. It appeared, the office said, that the numbers could correspond to a Boeing subcontractor, Airbus Defense and Space in Seville, Spain.
On Thursday, investigators went to Seville and formally linked "one of the three (series of numbers) collected inside the flaperon to the serial number of the Boeing 777 of flight MH370," Molins' office said.
"After a year and a half of ambiguity and disparate theories, I would rather have certainty than doubt," said Sarah Bajc, partner of passenger Philip Wood
" At least now there seems to be evidence that the plane did go in the water. I do wonder why it took so long. I also still wonder where the hull of the plane and the bodies are, and what happened."
K.S. Narendran, whose wife, Chandrika Sharma
, was aboard the flight, said the news won't change anything.
"On a daily basis, this news doesn't impact my life. I've had to carry on without a family member and I have gotten used to living without that family member," he said. "Has my life changed between yesterday and today? No. Has my desire to know the truth changed? No, I'd still like to know and I will persist."
The mystery of MH370
In the early hours of March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia en route to Beijing, with 239 passengers and crew on board.
At 1:19 a.m., as the Boeing 777-200ER was flying over the South China Sea, Malaysian air traffic controllers radioed the crew to contact controllers in Ho Chi Minh City for the onward flight through Vietnamese airspace.
The crew's acknowledgment of the request was the last thing ever heard from MH370: "Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero."
Shortly afterward, air traffic controllers in Malaysia lost contact with the plane somewhere over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.
The aircraft's transponder, which identifies the plane and relays details like altitude and speed to controllers, stopped transmitting. MH370 seemingly disappeared without a trace.
Malaysian authorities revealed later that military radar had tracked the plane as it turned back to the west and flew across the Malaysian Peninsula, up the Strait of Malacca, before flying out of radar range at 2:14 a.m. and vanishing once again.