The captain of the missing Malaysian airliner would not have deliberately crashed the plane, his son has claimed as new satellite images revealed 300 floating objects – possibly debris – in the frigid Southern Ocean.
Questions have been raised about the state of mind of Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and the FBI – at the request of Malaysian authorities – has been analysing data deleted from a flight simulator seized from his home. However, in his family’s first public comments, his youngest son, Ahmad Seth, defended his father’s reputation, telling the New Straits Times: “I know my father was better.”
In the remote stretch of ocean where Flight MH370 is believed to have crashed on 8 March after flying thousands of miles off course, the international team scouring the waters for wreckage was forced to abandon its hunt for the second time this week because of poor weather yesterday.
The grounding of the 11 search aircraft coincided, frustratingly, with Thailand’s release of satellite images captured on Monday, a day after a French satellite spotted 122 objects in the water. Those picked up by Thailand were about 200 kilometres away, and ranged in size from approximately two to 16 metres long, according to Anond Snidvongs, director of the country’s space technology development agency.
Despite exhaustively criss-crossing the crash zone for the past week, the search teams have been unable to find any of the objects in those and other satellite images, or to retrieve objects spotted from the air. Five ships, which continued searching yesterday despite the driving rain and strong winds, have also had no luck.
While the weather in the area, about 2,500 kilometres south-west of Perth, is expected to improve today, the southern Indian Ocean – home to some of the world’s roughest and deepest waters – is notorious for rapidly changing conditions. “I worry that people carrying out the rescue mission are going to get into trouble,” Kerry Sieh, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, said yesterday.
As the quest for physical evidence of the missing airliner’s fate continued to elude investigators, aviation experts – and armchair pundits – continued to trade theories about what happened after MH370 vanished off radar screens.
Earlier this week, USA Today quoted a “high-ranking” Malaysian police official as saying that investigators believed Mr Zaharie had deliberately redirected the plane, and that they were pressing his family for information about his behaviour before the flight.
The New Zealand Herald, meanwhile, quoted a friend of the pilot’s as saying that he was “probably in no state of mind to be flying”, following a distressing marriage breakup and problems with a new relationship.
Mr Zaharie felt that his life was crumbling, according to the friend, who suggested that he might have taken the Boeing 777 for “a last joyride”, diverting the plane to a part of the world he had never flown in before, and performing manoeuvres he had previously only been able to execute on the simulator.
No information implicating him, or anyone else, has come to light thus far, however. Ahmad Seth, a language student, said he had “read everything online” about his father, who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had chalked up 18,365 flying hours. “But I’ve ignored all the speculation,” the 26-year-old added. “We may not be close, as he travels so much. But I understand him.”
Like numerous other relatives of those who were on MH370, Mr Seth – the youngest of three children – is still hoping that his father is alive. “I will believe it [that there are no survivors] when I see the proof in front of my eyes,” he said.