An oil rig worker working off the south-eastern coast of Vietnam claims to have witnessed the crash of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
In a email sent to his employer, which was acquired, confirmed, and then shared by the ABC journalist Bob Woodruff, the man says, “I believe I saw the Malaysian Airlines plane come down. The timing is right.”
Vietnamese officials received email from oil rig worker who says he spotted burning object off the coast of SE Vietnam @GMA
— Bob Woodruff (@BobWoodruff) March 12, 2014
Vietnamese officials reportedly confirmed they got the letter, but found nothing in the water.
He describes seeing what he believes to be the plane burning — in one piece — at high altitude, flying perpendicular to the standard plane routes that cross over the area. “From when I first saw the burning (plane) until the flames went out (still at high altitude) was 10-15 seconds. There was no lateral movement, so it was either coming toward our location, stationary, or going away from our location,” he writes.
— Bob Woodruff (@BobWoodruff) March 12, 2014
Authorities expanded the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane to 27,000 square miles on Wednesday after reports that flight 370 may have changed directions before disappearing from radar.
Search teams initially combed over the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam for any clues as to what may have happened to the missing aircraft that was carrying 239 people. However, a source inside the Malaysian military said Tuesday that the plane switched directions and headed west, prompting search teams to look in a whole new direction.
The map above highlights the search area, as of March 11, for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
Malaysian air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud reportedly said military radar had spotted the jet over the Strait of Malacca. Hours later, however, Malaysian authorities are now casting doubt on this theory after Daud retracted his report, saying, “I wish to state that I did not make any such statements.”
Daud’s waffling seems to be part of a trend in the search for flight 370. Every lead that Malaysian authorities have chased has turned up nothing but confusion. This is partly why Phan Quy Tieu, Vietnam’s vice minister of transportation, told reporters on Wednesday that the country was pulling back on its hunt until Malaysia had something solid to go on from here. So far, he said, the information provided is “insufficient.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Daud on Wednesday said Malaysia’s air force is still “examining and analyzing all possibilities as regards to the airliner’s flight paths subsequent to its disappearance.”
But while Vietnam is scaling back, Japan and Indonesia are ramping up efforts. Eight members of a Japanese search team arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday to prepare for the arrival of two C-130 transport aircraft of the Air Self-Defense Force and two P-3C patrol planes of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. Indonesian authorities deployed its search mission over the Strait of Malacca as well.
Earlier this week, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar scrubbed one of the more promising leads that the plane’s disappearance may have been tied to two passengers who were traveling on stolen passports. He said 18-year-old Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad and Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, 29, both of whom are Iranian, boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight with stolen passports from Austria and Italy. However, authorities believe they were migrating to Europe andhave no terror links.
Days later, the search is still at square one, and the families of the missing passengers are demanding answers from Malayasian authorities, who, they believe, have more information than they’re sharing. Their anxiety escalated earlier this week after they discovered their missing loved ones’ phones were still ringing when they called.
Nineteen families signed a joint statement, delivered to Malaysia Airlines, asking for an explanation. Why could they get through to their family members’ phones but not hear anything? However, despite hearing what they think is a connection, experts say that ringing doesn’t mean the call was completed.
“Family members over there are hearing the [ring] tone and they are hoping, but this is not a sign of anything. This is just how the networks work,” wireless analyst Jeff Kagan told Mashable.
Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was at cruising altitude, around 35,000 feet, when it dropped from radar on March 7 with no signal from pilots, which is almost unheard of in the aviation world. Authorities believe it may have disintegrated in mid-flight, but no wreckage has been recovered after a widespread search. It’s extremely rare for an aircraft to suddenly vanish, without warning, during cruising altitude, as most airplane accidents occur during takeoff or landing.
This map shows some of the more deadly plane crashes that have occurred as the result of an event that happened during cruising altitude. Click on the plane icons to expand the information. Note that the map is not a complete list.