A British woman sailing with her husband across the Indian Ocean from India to Thailand has claimed she may have seen the missing Malaysia Airlines plane on fire.
Katherine Tee, 41, was on night watch on March 7-8 but said she did not report the sighting until Sunday because she was having marital problems and thought she was losing her mind.
She said recent media reports about the ailing search for MH370 prompted her and her husband, Marc Horn, to examine their GPS logs and they discovered they were within the plane’s projected flight path. The plane, carrying 239 passengers, disappeared on March 8.
“This is what convinced me to file a report with the full track data for our voyage to the relevant authorities,” she said.
“I looked back through our GPS logs and lo and behold, what we saw was consistent with the confirmed contact which the authorities had from MH370,” she told Thailand’s Phuket Gazette.
Ms Tee said she saw other planes nearby and thought they would have reported the burning plane.
“I saw something that looked like a plane on fire,” she said. “Then I thought I must be mad. It caught my attention because I had never seen a plane with orange lights before so I wondered what they were … It looked longer than planes usually do. There was what appeared to be black smoke behind it.”
“Since that’s not something you see every day, I questioned my mind. I was looking at what appeared to be an elongated plane glowing bright orange, with a trail of black smoke behind it. It did occur to me that it might be a meteorite. But I thought it was more likely that I was going insane.”
“There were two other planes well above it — moving the other way — at the time. They had normal navigation lights. I remember thinking that if it was a plane on fire that I was seeing, the other aircraft would report it.”
Authorities in Australia said last week they has found no wreckage in a targeted zone — based on sounds believed to have been from the plane’s black box locator beacon — and will now shift to a 12-month hunt across a broad stretch of the Indian Ocean. The next phase, which will involve private contractors, will only begin in August and will cover more than 23,000 square miles.
“Will this help the authorities of the families get closure? I have no idea,” Ms Tee said. “All I can confirm is that I have since learnt that we were in the right place at the right time, so it seems possible, but I chose to sweep it under the carpet and now I feel really bad.
“Maybe I should have had a little more confidence in myself. I am sorry I didn’t take action sooner.”
Adding to the uncertainty surrounding the plane’s possible final location, scientists are investigating a mysterious low-frequency underwater noise detected off the southern tip of India at about the time the missing Malaysia Airlines plane had its last satellite transmission and disappeared.
The noise, outside the range of human hearing, reportedly travelled across the Indian Ocean and was picked up by receivers off the west coast of Australia. But its original location – about 3,000 miles north-west of Australia – would not be consistent with the current search area off the Australian coast which is based on analysis of satellite data by British firm Inmarsat.
Alec Duncan, a marine scientist at Curtin University near Perth, said he believed the chances of the sound being from the missing Boeing 777 were about “25 to 30 per cent”.
“It’s not even really a thump sort of a sound — it’s more of a dull oomph,” Dr Duncan told The New York Times.
“If you ask me what’s the probability this is related to the flight, without the satellite data it’s 25 or 30 percent, but that’s certainly worth taking a very close look at.”
The noise was picked up by a receiver operated off the coast of Perth by Dr Duncan — used mainly for monitoring whales — and another about 220 miles south of Perth by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation in Vienna. The scientists have established the direction in which the sound was travelling but not the distance it travelled, leaving a potential search area spanning more than 200,000 square miles.
Mark Prior, an acoustics expert at the test ban organisation headquarters, told The New York Times the sound was consistent with an ocean impact or with a sealed, air-filled container sinking until it crumpled due to the water pressure.