Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razar said Monday that a new analysis of electronic data shows that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people aboard "ended" in a remote area of the Indian Ocean and indicated there were no survivors.
Just before the prime minister spoke in Kuala Lumpur, the airlines sent a brief text message to family members of the passengers saying, "(w)e have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived."
The prime minister said the new information, based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data from Inmarsat and by British accident investigators, shows that the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia.
"This is a remote location, far from any possible landing site," Najib said in a brief, televised statement. "It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
The purported crash area is the same location west of Perth where satellite images have shown signs of debris that could be connected to the missing Boeing 777, which left Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing on March 8.
A Chinese plane had already reporting spotting "suspicious objects in the southern Indian Ocean" during its search for the missing aircraft and an Australian search plane also spotted potential debris, said to be "circular" and "rectangular."
Najib, who wore a somber, black suit and took no questions, noted that the airlines had informed the family members of the latest findings, adding, "For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking; I know this news must be harder still. I urge the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time."
Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of one of the American passengers, Philip Wood, said in an e-mail that she feels a need to "regroup" after the latest news.
"The announcement is on data only, no confirmed wreckage so no real closure," Bajc writes. "I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with public efforts against all odds. I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along."
Reached for comment, Aubrey Wood, Philip's 76-year-old father, said, "I just can't talk to you right now."
Inmarsat, which provided the electronic data, owns and operates a global satellite network. An initial analysis of the information had indicated several possible flight paths for the airliner, including a northern route.
Rain and poor weather conditions slowed the search in the purported crash area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth.
The objects were being treated as new leads in the case that has baffled investigators for more than two weeks rather than concrete evidence.
Malaysia's transport minister said in his daily news conference earlier that both objects sighted by Australia are orange in color and might be recovered by an Australian ship in as soon as a few hours.
Hishammuddin Hussein said the missing jetliner had been carrying wooden pallets in its cargo hold.
And speaking to parliament, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: "I can advise the House that HMS Success is on the scene and is attempting to locate and recover these objects," adding that "one of the great mysteries of our time" may be closer to being resolved.
The crew of the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane saw the objects in an area that had been identified by satellite imagery as containing possible debris from the missing plane, China's state news agency Xinhua reported. The crew relayed the coordinates of the objects to the Australian command center and to a Chinese ship, the icebreaker Xuelong, which is on its way to the location.
China earlier released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.
A Xinhua correspondent aboard the IL-76 aircraft said the Chinese crew spotted two large floating objects and several smaller, white objects scattered over several kilometers.