Investigators have disclosed that they analysed the potential hazard posed by the combination of fruit and lithium batteries during the probe into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The aircraft was carrying 221kg of lithium batteries and a 4.5t consignment of mangosteen fruit, in four ULD containers, as part of its cargo shipment.
Both were “items of concern”, says the inquiry, the batteries as a fire hazard and the fruit for the possibility – although untrue, the probe learned – that it was out of season.
While the batteries were not listed as dangerous goods, the mangosteens were declared to the Boeing 777-200ER’s captain in a special load notice, because they were classified as perishable. The fruit and batteries, in their own protective containers, were loaded in close proximity in the aft hold.
Mangosteen juice is electrically conductive, as was the damp sponge used keep the fruit fresh.
“There were concerns that the mangosteen extracts could have got into contact with the batteries and produced hazardous fumes or, in a worst-case scenario, caused a short circuit [or] fire,” says the latest detailed update to the MH370 inquiry.
But after testing the items – both individually and in combination – Malaysian Science & Technology Research Institute for Defence was “convinced” that they “could not be the cause” of MH370’s disappearance, a conclusion backed by the investigation team.