Regarding the missing 777. Will an autopsy determine how and when the passengers died?

Hopefully the passengers are still alive, somewhere.

However, given the information that we now have, maybe the jet traveled for 5 hours before crashing into the ocean.

If bodies are found, what kind of information will an autopsy provide?

Did they all get poisoned/shot/killed or were their deaths the result of the plane crash (impact/burning/drowning).

The first thing, I think, people are going to want to know is if their deaths were intentional or not, especially the pilots.

Given they will have been in the water for two weeks, probably a lot less than one might hope. If the plane broke up in mid-air the violence will be so extreme that you will get massive injuries and broken bits of bodies. Whole bodies and the plane probably made a controlled ditching. The nature and pattern of broken bones will tell a tale of the impact. You may find enough bits of people to look for evidence of smoke inhalation. I doubt there would be any traces of hypoxia left after this time.

Only whole bodies, or at least largely intact torsoes, are likely to float. I would wager that there are close to zero people chunks left, between decomposition in warm waters and scavenger/predators.

Maybe bones might be recoverable if the impact site is ever found, and the ratio of intact to whole major bones might tell something about the impact itself. Doubt anything of smaller pathology will be detectible.

There are a lot of critters in the ocean that would be happy to have long pork for dinner. If the bodies were exposed at all to the open water they’re fish food by now.

Given the amount of time that has elapsed, they’re fish poop by now.

All but 74 passengers were recovered from AF 447 after 2 years at 4000 meters. Some of the 74 were still strapped into inaccessible seats.

At that depth, the temperature is close to zero Celsius, biological degradation is slow and scavengers sparse.

From what I’ve heard on CNN, examiners would very much be able to tell the cause of death.

From: UK Daily Mail :

As I read it, the only ones recovered were those still strapped to their seats (which, Im guessing, served to limit motion and, thereby, at least reduce the force with which the extremities were displaced).

Going to need lots of cold storage if you start pulling meat out of the bottom of the Indian Ocean - it’s deep.

And the Air France plane had an intact fuselage - not common.

I would guess that if the plane crashed, there would be far too many body parts to ever have a successful autopsy on a single identifiable person.

If a jetliner crashes into the ocean, the bodies of the people on board are just smashed into hundreds of tiny pieces. Very difficult - if not impossible - to conduct any autopsies.

And, if the bodies weren’t strapped to a heavier-than-water fuselage, the time spent going from surface to bottom would give critters a good shot.

And that’s where I’m gonna have to stop you.

You realize you posted this just after someone gave an example of bodies recovered from an airliner that crashed into the ocean, Air France Flight 447?

Crashes vary in the intensity of their impacts and how much things stay intact. I suggest you research the matter a bit more if you’re interested in the facts rather than a random guess.


Well, we don’t really know what was going on with that plane. Maybe it was a mass kidnapping, or someone was just trying to steal an airplane. Maybe we’ll find out that the passengers are alive and well at some remote airstrip in Africa where they’ve been held for the past few weeks.

I don’t really believe that is true, but I do kinda hope so.
I mean, I know they’re all dead. But the lack of actual proof of that Means I don’t know they’re all dead, and that combined with a feeling that this was too elaborate for a suicide plot, and too remote for terrorism*, gives a glimmer of hope that something else is afoot here. It isn’t, but I hope it is.

As has been said above, how much can be learned from the autopsies really depends on the condition of the remains recovered, and that depends on a great many things. Natural decay can easily destroy evidence of foul play, for example.

*All I mean by that is that I would think the run-of-the-mill terrorist would value spectacle over mystery. You don’t want to make a plane full of passengers disappear, you want hundreds or thousands of people to see it crash. I could be wrong.


Unfortunately, no one as seriously entertained the thought of the survival of the passengers for many days now.

That could be right or wrong depending on the group and circumstances. Bin Laden/Al Qaeda did not claim responsibility for 9/11 at the time; various public statements he made later (via his video’s) only indirectly did, but this soon after, nothing. It’s not unusual. There are many other examples.

If terror groups claim responsibility for their actions they are increasing the attention given to them and their causes. However OTOH they are giving away information that might make it easier to foil a future attack using the same method, or even counter attack the group or cell which launched the attacks. And some acts of terror are perpetrated by individuals or very small groups sympathetic with some cause but not in actual contact with anyone in a ‘professional’ terror group. They might all die in the course of their attack. And even if nobody knows for sure something was a terror attack, obviously there’s lots of suspicion and discussion (like this case) and airplanes disappearing for unknown reasons tends to undermine confidence. Some terror groups just want to do that. For example Al Q (not that this case looks particularly like their act) doesn’t really have a ‘cause’ to publicize at this point. They’ve explained who they are, what they aim for and who they think stands in the way (whether or not rationally and coherently, that’s a different topic). They just want to cause damage to those in the way.

There’s no solid evidence for accident, terrorism or ‘non terrorism foul play’ in this Malaysia case, but lack of claim of responsibility is not really evidence of anything.

My guess all along, and probably borne out by the current press conference by the Malaysian PM, is that something incapcacitated the crew after a turn to the nearest emergency landing, but before they could get to a safe altitude.The plane was probably trimmed to fly straight and level and simply kept doing that for 7 hours.

On a pilot board, someone said normal procedure for an electrical fire would be pull the breakers. Hence, the radios all go silent. If the pressure fails, the oxygen masks for the passengers would drop down but only give about 15 minutes of air; so they’d pass out expecting the pilots were taking care fo things.

Then, I wonder if no power means no heat - so it’s a tossup between asphyxiation and hypothermia.

As mentioned above, the Air France passengers were found on the ocean floor. The Air France plan belly-flopped into the water, rather than a head-on collision at 600mph. There was no sudden disintegration of the entire aircraft, like it hit a brick wall.

After 2 years, the passengers were still there. however, after 90 years, any traces of the passengers of the Titanic were completely gone, as were any other unpreserved oganics (elather was intact, as were metals and ceramics. Even at that depth, there are critters that eat organics, just very slowly.

Plus, IIRC, barnacles and such tend to accumulate on any floating debris, so many things too small might eventually accumulate shell weight and sink.


I bet the plane’s downed in Aaaaaafricaaaaaa