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Pings not from Malaysian plane, US Navy says

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The four detected pings drove search efforts for days. (Source: CNN) The four detected pings drove search efforts for days. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) – There was a huge setback on Wednesday in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. U.S. Navy officials have discovered that underwater pings detected during the search did not come from the missing plane.

It was the most promising lead. And now we know it's false. In new information, the U.S. Navy has concluded that the four underwater signals were not from the missing plane's black boxes.

From the U.S. Navy's standpoint, the sounds were most likely not from the black boxes.

"Yes, I'd have to say at this point based on the imagery data we have, if this black box was nearby we would pick it up," said Michael Dean, deputy director for salvage and diving for the U.S. Navy.

When detected in April, the pings boosted confidence the plane would be found.

"The four signals, previously acquired, taken together constitute the most promising lead," said Angus Houston, Australian Chief Search Coordinator.

But now the Navy says the sounds could have been from the search ship itself, or other electronics.

"We may very well have been in the wrong place. But again at the end of 30 days there was nothing else to listen for," Dean said.

After searching 329 square miles of ocean floor, the mission for Bluefin 21 is over.

The search continues in August when private companies take over.

Meantime there is a potential new lead.

A sound that could have been the plane crashing was detected by underwater microphones.

"Our analysis is designed to detect nuclear events and earthquakes. And my understanding is Curtin University  is looking at the data specifically to find if there is any evidence of any impact from the Malaysian aircraft," said Mark Prior of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

The United Nations organization has a network of 11 hydrophone stations that pick up many sounds, even ice breaking thousands of miles away in Antarctica. Curtin University is a research school based in Perth, Australia.

But could it hear a plane hitting the water?

"It's possible. But the circumstances that would allow it would have to be very particular," Prior said.

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