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Satellite clue crushes wild theories, hope for Flight MH370



By ADAM GELLER and KRISTEN GELINEAU

Over an extraordinary 17 days and nights, until the moment Malaysia's prime minister stepped to a lectern to deliver investigators' sobering new findings, the fate of vanished Flight 370 hung on morbid conjecture and fragile hope.

Many previous tragedies have transfixed us by revealing their power in cruel detail. But the disappearance of the Beijing-bound Boeing 777 without warning or explanation captivated imaginations around the world in no small part because of the near vacuum of firm information or solid leads.

Nothing solid, that is, until late Monday night, when Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that an analysis of the plane's last-known signals to a satellite showed that it went down somewhere in the desolate waters of the southern Indian Ocean - and that all on board perished.

It was a turning point of sorts in one of the most perplexing mysteries of modern times. Najib's statement offered some resolution - the plane has surely crashed - but little else. No one has found the plane, or the passengers, or the answer to why all this happened in the first place. And solving those riddles involves a search that looms dauntingly across a vast expanse of unforgiving ocean at the bottom of the earth.

The puzzle of Flight 370 has been complicated by a frustrating lack of hard facts since it vanished on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. Who could say what might have happened in the cockpit or the cabin - or who or what was responsible? Who knew where the plane had gone - up or down, north or south - or what had become of its 239 passengers and crew?

Hungry for answers, officials and investigators, relatives and reporters focused their questions fruitlessly on the two Iranian passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports; then on the oil slicks in the Gulf of Thailand; then on the rumors that a Uighur passenger might have harbored anti-Chinese motives; then on the pilot's home flight simulator.

The reluctance of Malaysian officials to reveal what they knew and sometimes to offer conflicting information only seemed to feed the doubts, even after many of the nefarious scenarios suggested early on were dismissed. And with limited evidence and not even a bit of confirmed wreckage, everyone from experts on aviation and terrorism to armchair travelers was left to speculate.

It may have been hard to take rocker Courtney Love seriously when she posted a photo on Facebook showing an oil slick off the coast of Malaysia and suggested that it revealed the location of the missing plane. But when a fake news story showed up online supposedly quoting Sarah Palin as saying she believed the plane had flown directly to heaven, its plausibility hinged not on the former Alaska governor, but on the fact that just about anybody could and seemingly did have an opinion on the flight's fate.

That's probably because most people felt connected to it and, therefore, invested in it. As Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten put it, "There is something about a plane disappearing which links all the citizens of the globe. These people who disappeared on this flight could be any of us."

While many of the theories presented were well-informed speculation based on deep experience and thoughtful analysis, they all had one flaw or another, and could not dispel the void. With so little to go on, families of those aboard grasped at the clouds of uncertainty, which allowed them to maintain a sense, however shaky, that that the plane might possibly be found intact, their relatives found alive.

"Dearest love, I hope you are able to get some rest where you are, and that they are feeding you," Sarah Bajc wrote last week in a Facebook post to her boyfriend, Philip Wood, a native of Texas who was on board. "Any chance they include a glass of wine with dinner?"

It was one of a heartbreaking string of love notes she sent out into the electronic ether, as she clung to the hope that her partner was still alive. A few days later: "Hi baby, It has been a lazy Sunday here. I cannot imagine what you must be going through." Later still: "Good morning baby, how are you holding up? I'm doing my best to bring you hope and courage to continue the fight."

And fight the families did - for any scrap of information that might reveal their loved ones' fate. Gut-wrenching grief, frustration and, eventually, rage bubbled over among some of the family members, who accused the Malaysian government of withholding information. Before a news briefing in Kuala Lumpur, two Chinese relatives of passengers held up a banner demanding the truth.

"I want to see my son!" one of the women cried, before being carried away by security as she wept and screamed.

And then, at last, came a break - or at least, what seemed like one. On March 20, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stunned the world when he stood up during what had been a routine session of parliament, slipped on his glasses and began to read from a statement:

"New and credible information has come to light in relation to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean," he began. "The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has received information based on satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search."

The objects - two blurry, whitish blobs captured in a satellite image - were located in a patch of the Indian Ocean, near absolutely nothing. The closest major body of land was Australia's west coast, 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) away.

The hunt was on in earnest. Military planes from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand had already been searching the area and more planes from China and Japan were sent to help, while an Australian navy supply ship, the HMAS Success, scoured the waters, some of the roughest and remotest in the world.

More potential clues began popping up: A civil aircraft taking part in the search on Saturday spotted several small objects floating in the water, including a wooden pallet surrounded by straps. Could it have been from the aircraft? Malaysia Airlines confirmed the flight did, indeed, have wooden pallets on board. But pallets are also commonly used in the shipping industry. A New Zealand military aircraft tried to find the objects for closer inspection, but found only clumps of seaweed.

The sense that searchers were getting close grew when more satellite data emerged; China announced it had captured a large object within the search zone on one of its satellites, and France said it had satellite data that may have identified debris from the missing plane.

More objects of potential interest were spotted by the search planes crisscrossing the skies: a grey or green circular object and an orange rectangular object. A white, square object glimpsed through a break in the clouds.

The U.S. sent a Towed Pinger Locator to the region in case a debris field was found, in the hopes it could locate the plane's so-called black box. An Australian navy support vessel, the Ocean Shield, equipped with acoustic detection equipment, was also moving into the search zone.

But except for analysts' fresh conclusion based on satellite data that the flight had gone down, there are still no hard answers. And finding the jet remains far from a certainty.

For Bajc, the woman who has all along refused to give up hope that her boyfriend is still alive, Malaysia's fatalist announcement offered little resolution.

"I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with public efforts against all odds," she wrote in an email. "I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along."

___

Associated Press writer Aritz Parra in Beijing contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
skystar460 March 25 2014 at 5:12 PM

This ariticle has no new useful information. Just a rehash of everything that has been previously reported....

Flag Reply +4 rate up
cpulciani2 March 25 2014 at 3:53 PM

This is a tragic horrible event, these terrible things happen not to just planes ,trains and automobiles but at schools and so on. The thing that is really bothersome is the way the news teams and reporters will not give the heart broken familys not even an inch of solitude or comfort. They just have to get that last closeup for the sake of the camera. Please these people are not you tipical celebs waiting for their pics to be taken, these are the broken hearted crying out for their loved ones. Please give them the dignity that they so deserve and leave them alone!!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
1 reply
carlos saunders cpulciani2 March 25 2014 at 3:57 PM

if you were watching cnn like I was, did you notice that the flight simulator pilot never changed his clothes the whole time they have been covering this story?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Cassandra carlos saunders March 25 2014 at 6:43 PM

Maybe that's his fav shirt!

Flag 0 rate up
thothsellshomes March 25 2014 at 3:03 PM

It is interesting that the pilot (Captain) was estranged from his wife ... and the youngest of their 3 children is in her twenties. Given that communications devices were deliberately turned off ... it makes it more interesting that he was practicing landing at Diego Garcia U.S. high security air base ... and he recently (March 8, 2014) deleted these records, although they were still retrieved by police/authorities who confiscated his in home flight simulator computers and equipment. Multiple witnesses say they saw the plane flying very low in the Maldives that morning. While Malaysian authorities are relying on a British satellite company and the UK air crash investigation team to announce their conclusion that the plane crashed in the southern Indian ocean, until the plane and black boxes are located, these facts, questions, witnesses, possibilities should be scrutinized.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
neutralslamm thothsellshomes March 25 2014 at 3:11 PM

You mean stories like this one: "Your reports have it that MH 370 Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shahso’s wife was having an affair with Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat Pandikar Amin Mulia. Your sources linked them through Anwar Ibrahim a former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993 to 1998 – imprisoned recently for sodomy. Media sources suspect CPT Zharie contacted his wife by phone before the flight pleading for her to end the relationship. It is suspected by your reports (moon bat media) that Captain Zaharie took control of the plane after subduing his co-pilot First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid and flew flight MH 370 to a desolate part of the Indian Ocean and crashed the plane. Moon bat media credits some of its resources to Al Jazeera on what they describe as a “related story.”

Flag Reply +2 rate up
margot_hilaire1 March 25 2014 at 2:51 PM

Here it is, the BIG Q" Is there heaven awaits for all of us ?? We all have hope for that one. I believe no one will ever die. My mother is always near, I can sense her present now and always.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
3 replies
mitzu2 March 25 2014 at 2:44 PM

I REALLY want someone to keep these damn scam advertising comments from being posted!

Flag Reply +20 rate up
3 replies
gtralan March 25 2014 at 2:43 PM

I'm wondering what would or could have over-powered the passengers to the point where not one of them realized what was happening and did not have the capability or the means to make a CELL-PHONE CALL to someone or anyone telling them of the situation. Can cell-phones become dis-abled on a flight? Even the flight attendents would have known something whacko was going on and tried to do something. There was a golfer by the name of Payne Stewart. In 1999 Stewart was killed ,along with everyone eles on the plane, in the depressurization of a Learjet flying from Orlando, Florida, to Dallas, Texas. The plane veered of course a bit but continued to fly across the US on auto-pilot for hours unti it crashed.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
4 replies
wlab123 March 25 2014 at 1:12 PM

An event like this, brings out the morons from under the porch or their bunkers, to share with us their views. Some sick puppys out there. My heart goes out to the victims and family members.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
Chris wlab123 March 25 2014 at 1:17 PM

Yeah, it really brings out the bitter haters.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
teeveequeen wlab123 March 25 2014 at 1:18 PM

and just think ... those morons are getting paid big $$$ for their SPECULATIVE opinions & theories by these idiotic news channels ... just for RATINGS !!!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
debnaert March 25 2014 at 1:14 PM

MAYBE NOW they will put devices in these air ships that will tell us EXACTLY where the jet is at all times!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
PEACEMAKER March 25 2014 at 2:43 PM

I would not be satisfied until the parts have been identified as the actual airplane.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
2 replies
M PEACEMAKER March 25 2014 at 2:59 PM

Ditto.

There are still far too many unanswered questions, and unless there is some incredibly lucky recovery of the black boxes, most questions will not have answers.

Another article has the Chinese demanding the satellite data used to form this conclusion, and that is only prudent, in case there were things overlooked in the analysis, especially given NO debris has yet been found, anywhere.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
hdgoose PEACEMAKER March 25 2014 at 3:08 PM

You can't be satisfied; you may never know. What if the plane was deemed as a hijacked flight and shot out of the sky? The plane could have been a hijacked guided missile to take out a military base in the area where it crashed. It would have been shot down as an incoming threat; and that would never be publicized.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jmagsds1 March 25 2014 at 4:20 PM

Some day we will read about the recovery of the plane
at the bottom of that body of water.3 miles down

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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