I think I saw Flight MH370

OK, so between February 20th and March 10th we were crossing the Indian Ocean the wrong way from Cochin, India to Phuket, Thailand.

On the night in question (7th-8th March), I was standing a night watch alone. Well, sitting, really. Watching the stars, since I had been spending the passage identifying and learning a new constellation every night. And I thought I saw a burning plane cross behind our stern from port to starboard; which would have been approximately North to South. It was about half the height of other flights which I had been gazing at during that part of the passage.

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 it might be a meteorite. But I thought it was more likely I was going insane.

At the time we were at the tail end of a very, very harsh passage into the weather which was mountainous, having been flooded badly from the anchor locker and swamped from the companionway so EVERYTHING was soaked, and stays breaking amongst other stuff which just piled up to make me flip. By this time my rucksack was packed, and the divorce planned.

When we hit land everyone was talking about the missing plane and asking if we’d seen anything. Since I had doubted what I saw and was emotionally in a bad way, I brushed over what I thought I’d seen, and focused instead on the stories of Boatie who was ‘missing’ on the Atlantic, and Eric and Charlotte who’d scuppered in the Pacific.

Besides, I thought, they’ll find it.

But tonight I heard that they were looking in the wrong place, so HWMO and I looked back through our GPS log, and lo and behold, what we saw was consistent with the confirmed contact which authorities had from MH370.

My questions are:

1 – Who should I tell? And should I bother?
2 – If it was a plane on fire that I saw, how long would it maintain its flight and where would it be likely to end up.

Attached are screenshots of where we were at that time (the highlighted portion of our track).

Screenshot 2014-05-31 16.38.57

The red highlighted part is our track from midnight to 4am on the morning in question.
The red highlighted part is our track from midnight to 4am on the morning in question.


I also posted this on Cruisers Forum, which is absolutely the best sailing forum out there, and got some helpful responses.  Member ‘category4jay’ was particularly helpful in forcing me to clarify my thoughts.  I have printed our conversation below.  My responses to him are in red:

Jay, I agree entirely with all these points, and they all factor into why I didn’t report it sooner. I’m answering in red since I can’t be bothered splitting all the points into seperate quotes:

[QUOTE=category4jay;1553637]Wow what an incredible story. Leave it to a cruiser to break the biggest mystery in history. You obviously have a moral and/or ethical duty to report your story to the appropriate officials. But beware and be prepared you’re gonna get grilled (questioned).

1. Why did it take so long? Seriously. There are tons of publicity hounds out there willing to lie to make the news.
Because I couldn’t believe what I think I saw. I mean, I saw it, but it was just so unlikely. Plus I was stressed by the time we hit shore. Very stessed. And I wasn’t absolutely sure of what I had seen, and can’t even be positive it was that night. I don’t follow the news, not even when ashore (I barely have time to do my job, it’s lucky I have an understanding boss). The reason it started bothering me today was because of a news item on Thai Radio saying the survey boat is heading back in due to technical difficulties, and it peaked my interest.

2. “On the night in question (7th-8th March).” Was it the 7th or 8th?
We were on passage, I don’t even know what day of the week it was. I only know it was defintely toward the end of the passage, but not right at the end. I had no idea we were even in that area at the time. That I only found out tonight when we reviewed the situation.

3. “I was standing a night watch alone.” No corroborating witnesses. Exactly. And I was fearing for my sanity. Who’d believe me anyway? I found it hard to believe at the time. And when I got ashore I was focused on fixing my personal problems and catching up on work.

4. “I thought I saw a burning plane.” Thought??
I saw something that looked like a plane on fire. That’s what I thought it was. Then I thought I must be mad. Especially since I was highly stressed at the time.

5. “It was about half the height of other flights which I had been gazing at during that part of the passage”. What “height” was it? Half of what?
It was much lower than the planes which had passed overhead that night. That’s one reason I can be sure it was within those few days, since there were no planes passing over when we were in the middle of the ocean. So, if planes normally cruise over oceans at around 30,000 to 40,000 feet, this was approx 10,000 to 20,000 feet. That’s my guess. Now I reflect on it, I also think it was at approx the same height that short haul planes cruise down the Arabian Gulf.

6. “I questioned my mind… I thought it was more likely I was going insane.” Thats not gonna play well.
But it’s the truth. I know that. Who’d have believed me when I had a hard time believing what I was seeing myself. That’s why I didn’t report it then

7. “At the time we were at the tail end of a very, very harsh passage into the weather which was mountainous, having been flooded badly from the anchor locker and swamped from the companionway so EVERYTHING was soaked, and stays breaking amongst other stuff which just piled up to make me flip. By this time my rucksack was packed, and the divorce planned.” Relevancy?
Not relevant. Just explaining to fellow members why I was stressed, and hence doubting my sanity.

8. “I had doubted what I saw and was emotionally in a bad way.” The sound of a solid witness? Not really.
I absolutely agree. That’s why I didn’t bother saying anything.

SS I’m not discounting what you thought you saw or anything you’ve said. Just be prepared. Very prepared…especially if you are right and you did see MH370. Your world will never be that same if you provide THE clue. Good Luck.
If the authorities are interested, they can ask. But I am sure that the few other witnesses who saw it near Malaysia and Vietnam have quickly much settled back into their life post their 5 minutes of fame.

I am guessing that what I saw won’t add much to what they already know, although I don’t know much myself about what they know. I repeat, I don’t follow the news.

You remember the thread that ran right after it? I glanced at it, said a prayer for Pelagic’s friends, considered posting what I saw, then moved on without taking action. Was I right to dismiss what I had seen? I don’t know. But I seriously had my head in the sand for a few months after that passage.



10 Comments Add yours

  1. Tony Mach says:

    What time *and* timezone of the “highlighted portion of our track”? Is it UTC, is it Indian, Thai, Malay, … timezone? With an exact time one could say whether it might have been the flight (or one could rule it out).

    One more (possibly stupid) question: Was the burning thing in the sky moving with aircraft speed? Or in other words, how long did you see it? I ask because you might then rule out a meteor – meteor are usually over much faster.

    BTW: If you were in the European Union (where I live), I would recommend to you to simply going to the next police station, and there “deposit a witness statement” (or however it is called). The police then can take care of routing the witness report to the relevant authorities, which would be the national aircraft safety/investigation authorities. However I don’t know the police in your nation, so this may or may not be advisable for the nation you are currently in.

  2. Tony Mach says:

    And one more thing:

    From the released information (the “Inmarsat pings”) I am pretty sure that the aircraft flew for another couple of hours after the straits of malaca. And that means that it is pretty certain that the aircraft flew until fuel exhaustion, or at least close to the time of fuel exhaustion.

    And furthermore it is quite inconceivable that an burning aircraft (producing flames and smoke visible from the ground!) will not stay airborne for that long. So I would say that what you saw was *not* MH370.

    But there is the the off-chance that a freak accident happened onboard of the aircraft, producing a short lived fire. I think such a short lived fire is next to impossible, but maybe we will know more if the flight data recorder is recovered some day (hopefully soon…). Then the investigators can decide if your report fits in with the other evidence.

  3. Do u by any chance have the coordinates of where on your track u had this sighting and the time of your sighting?

  4. Sounds like the sighting by New Zealander Mike McKay, who was working on a rig operating in the Gulf of Thailand. In what could be the last chilling sighting of missing Flight MH370, an oil rig worker believes he spotted the Malaysia Airlines jetliner burst into flames on Saturday morning.
    He was so certain he saw the ill-fated flight on fire that he emailed his employers, urging them to pass the information onto authorities.
    “Gentlemen. I believe I saw the Malaysian Airlines flight come down. The timing is right,” he wrote.
    “I tried to contact Malaysian and Vietnamese officials days ago. But I do not know if the message has been received.
    “I am on the oil ring Songa-Mercur off the coast of Vung Tau.
    “The surface location of the observation is Lat 08 22’ 30.20” N Lat 108 42.22.26” E.
    “I observed (the plane?) burning at high altitude at a compass bearing of 265* to 275*”
    Mr McKay is working on the oil rig Songa Mercur off Vung Tau, on the south east coast of Vietnam. This would put the plane in the same general area where a Chinese satellite has spotted a suspected crash site. http://www.news.com.au/world/oil-rig-worker-says-he-saw-malaysia-airlines-flight-mh370-burst-into-flames/story-fndir2ev-1226853302184

    I agree in asking what was the coordinates your were at when you saw this burning plane?

    s/v Brrr Wind II Channel Islands Harbor Ca.

  5. JG says:

    You should have reported this much earlier, but of course you probably know that already. Good luck with everything.

  6. Anna Kibblewhite says:

    Hi Katherine, I am writing from the BBC Science factual department, we are producing a documentary about MH370 and I am interested to hear more about your signting please email me – anna.kibblewhite@bbc.co.uk. I look forward to hearing from you. Anna

  7. redskevin709 says:

    Ms. Tee, you should have reported this earlier and told a believable adult! The investigators have been trying to investigate everything from an alien abduction to a terrorist attack, also the people are very angry as they cannot find their relatives and what not. Now with this information hopefully the investigators can find out what goes wrong, and retrieve the dead bodies and the souls can rest in peace!

  8. Laurence Bothwell says:

    Hi Ms Tee

    As a Former RAF Radar Corporal and occasional Offshore Sailor (1978-1985 era, now researching Lawyer Ethics !) I’m reviewing your MH370 sighting (which I believe is consistent with an earlier brief sighting of a plane on fire by Mike Mackay on Songa Mercur Oilrig, his was brief because MH370 came into his far Horizon Sight for 10 to 15 seconds as it turned left and back westwards towards Malaysia) and the 8 Oct 14 ATSB Report (http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/5163181/AE-2014-054_MH370%20-FlightPathAnalysisUpdate.pdf).

    The issue I am thinking about is a possible MH370 turn southwards between 18:28 and 18:40 UTC which is being used to estimate where MH370 came down on the 7th Arc (near Broken Ridge in the Southern Indian Ocean). This aspect is significant because the earlier that the turn south was made, the further south on the 7th Arc that the current search is being conducted.

    Please can you confirm which Time Zone is being used for your “Midnight to 4am Segment” of your selected track (73 true at 04:40:17, just above East).

    Please can you also confirm approximately which times are covered by your next segment (after 4am, approx bearing 120 degrees, just below East).

    Have you forwarded your full log and track map to atsbinfo@atsb.gov.au ?

    Another significant factor is the height of the flaming airplane you saw as similar to the short haul flights around the Arabian/Persian Gulf and about half of the 31K to 40K cruising altitudes. I’ve had a quick peep at flightradar24.com to see such short flights at 15K to 20K height. The current searches (bathymetric deep terrain maps and more detailed towed sonar by GO Phoenix, Fugro Equator, and Fugro Discovery) are looking below Broken Ridge (just below West of Freemantle/Perth) for estimated MH370 heights of around 30K and 35K. Your observation of “half height”, if such a height that you saw was maintained by MH370 autopilot, rather suggests that a more northerly intersection of the 7th Arc is indicated. This would be consistent with the area North West of Perth where the Chinese vessel Haixun 01 and Ocean Shield ‘detected’ black-box ‘pings’ around 5 and 6 Apr 14. Surprisingly, I don’t think that this area has been bathymetric surveyed YET.

    I always thought your graphic sighting (from the early days that it surfaced in late May) had great value. From there, it was a matter of bold trust and skill by the investigators in merging your sighting data into the MH370 search parameters.

    One final thought relating to an MH370 turn southwards. Whilst it may be possible to overlap your track with MH370 Primary Radar track (north of Banda Aceh), I wanted to ask whether you thought MH370 turned or was turning slightly during your sighting ? Did the nearest wing to you tilt downwards and the furthest wing tilt upwards during your observation ? Another way of asking is, did the black smoke trail have a curve in any part of it, before, during, or after your sighting ?

    I can imagine that, in the months that have passed since 8 Mar 14 and since your subsequent reports (this one with the crucial screenshots of Log and Maps on 31 May 14), you’ve done all that you can in reporting what you saw as it’s significance caught up with you. For my part, I think your sighting and the detail of what you saw ought to be more prominent in the investigator teams thinking.

    Please forward any response to atsbinfo@atsb.gov.au

    I haven’t followed your reports since June 2014 and I don’t know if you and your husband and crew are still sailing onwards. In any event, I wish you all the best and safe travels.

    Laurence Bothwell
    2 Wolfson House
    64B Charlwood Street
    SW1V 2DP
    +44 7233 7420
    +7944 318 433

    1. Laurence Bothwell says:

      I ought to add the Chinese Survey ship Zhu Kezhen which did some early bathymetric deep terrain surveys up to 20 Sep 14.
      Laurence Bothwell

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