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Vietnam says it may have found missing jet's door

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:51 p.m. HST, Mar 09, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia >> Vietnamese aircraft spotted what they suspected was one of the doors of a missing Boeing 777 on Sunday, while questions emerged about how two passengers managed to board the ill-fated aircraft using stolen passports.

Interpol confirmed it knew about the stolen passports but said no authorities checked its vast databases on stolen documents before the Boeing jetliner departed Saturday from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Warning "only a handful of countries" routinely make such checks, Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble chided authorities for "waiting for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates."

More than two days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, the final minutes before its disappearance remained a mystery. The plane lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam.

However, searchers in a low-flying plane spotted an object that appeared to be one of the plane's doors, the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said, citing the deputy chief of staff of Vietnam's army, Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan.

Two ships from the maritime police were headed to the site about 60 miles (90 kilometers) south of Tho Chu island in the Gulf of Thailand, the same area where oil slicks were spotted Saturday.

"From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane," Tuan said.

The jetliner apparently fell from the sky at cruising altitude in fine weather, and the pilots were either unable or had no time to send a distress signal -- unusual circumstances under which a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline would crash.

Authorities were checking on the identities of the two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight's manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

"I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV," Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference late Sunday, adding that the footage was being examined. "We have intelligence agencies, both local and international, on board."

The thefts of the two passports -- one belonging to Austrian Christian Kozel and the other to Luigi Maraldi of Italy -- were entered into Interpol's database after they were stolen in Thailand in 2012 and last year, the police body said.

Electronic booking records show that one-way tickets with those names were issued Thursday from a travel agency in the beach resort of Pattaya in eastern Thailand. A person who answered the phone at the agency said she could not comment.

But no authorities in Malaysia or elsewhere checked the passports against the database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents before the Malaysian Airlines plane took off.

In a forceful statement, the Interpol chief said he hoped "that governments and airlines worldwide will learn from the tragedy."

"Now, we have a real case where the world is speculating whether the stolen passport holders were terrorists," Noble said. "Interpol is asking why only a handful of countries worldwide are taking care to make sure that persons possessing stolen passports are not boarding international flights."

Details also emerged Sunday about the itineraries of the two passengers traveling on the stolen passports.

A telephone operator on a China-based KLM hotline confirmed Sunday that passengers named Maraldi and Kozel had been booked on one-way tickets on the same KLM flight, flying from Beijing to Amsterdam on Saturday. Maraldi was to fly on to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kozel to Frankfurt, Germany.

She said the pair booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines, but she had no information on where they bought them.

As holders of EU passports with onward flights to Europe, the passengers would not have needed visas for China.

Interpol said it and national investigators were working to determine the true identities of those who used the stolen passports to board the flight. White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the U.S. was looking into the stolen passports, but that investigators had reached no conclusions.

Interpol has long sounded the alarm that growing international travel has underpinned a new market for identity theft: Bogus passports have lured illegal immigrants, terrorists, drug runners, pretty much anyone looking to travel unnoticed. More than 1 billion times last year, travelers boarded planes without their passports being checked against Interpol's database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents, the police agency said.

In addition to the plane's sudden disappearance, which experts said was consistent with a possible onboard explosion, the stolen passports strengthened concerns about terrorism as a possible cause. Al-Qaida militants have used similar tactics to try to disguise their identities.

Still, other possible causes included a catastrophic failure of the plane's engines, extreme turbulence, or pilot error or even suicide. Establishing what happened with any certainty will need data from flight recorders and a detailed examination of any debris, something that will take months if not years.

Malaysia's air force chief, Rodzali Daud, said radar indicated that before it disappeared, the plane may have turned back, but there were no further details on which direction it went or how far it veered off course.

"We are trying to make sense of this," Daud said at a news conference. "The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back, and in some parts this was corroborated by civilian radar."

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said pilots are supposed to inform the airline and traffic control authorities if the plane does a U-turn. "From what we have, there was no such distress signal or distress call per se, so we are equally puzzled," he said.

A total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the United States were deployed to the area where ground controllers lost contact with the plane on the maritime border between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board, two-thirds were Chinese, while the rest were from elsewhere in Asia, Europe and North America, including three Americans.

Family members of Philip Wood, a 50-year-old IBM executive who was on board the plane, said they saw him a week ago when he visited them in Texas after relocating to Kuala Lumpur from Beijing, where he had worked for two years.

"There is a shock, a very surreal moment in your life," said Wood's brother, James Wood.

The other two Americans were identified on the passenger manifest as 4-year-old Nicole Meng and 2-year-old Yan Zhang. It was not known with whom they were traveling.

After more than 30 hours without contact with the aircraft, Malaysia Airlines told family members they should "prepare themselves for the worst," Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director for the airline, told reporters.

Finding traces of an aircraft that disappears over sea can take days or longer, even with a sustained search effort. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, wreckage can be scattered over a large area. If the plane enters the water before breaking up, there can be relatively little debris.

A team of American experts was en route to Asia to be ready to assist in the investigation into the crash. The team includes accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as technical experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, the safety board said in a statement.

Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed last July in San Francisco, killing three passengers, all Chinese teenagers.


Brummitt reported from Hanoi, Vietnam. Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia; Didi Tang, Gillian Wong and Louise Watt in Beijing; Joan Lowy in Washington; and Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed this report.

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bleedgreen wrote:
Thanks for publishing this article in a timely manner. It is currently, perhaps, the most comprehensive report of this tragic event at this time.
on March 9,2014 | 08:22AM
false wrote:
Coincidence to the On Board film in the market place. How scary for travelers departing anywhere and at anytime. Life is but a whisper of time for some of us. Who knows?
on March 9,2014 | 08:29AM
warrenkim wrote:
What is really interesting is Vietnam, the supposedly ungodly communists that we fought during the 60s and 70s. I think more stories should be done on them and how they developed into their current state. Vietnam is becoming another Malaysia or perhaps even into another Singapore.
on March 9,2014 | 08:41AM
serious wrote:
Yes, it's amazing what a country can do without the mingling of US interference. BTW, finding the plane's door is a break. They can now check it for explosives to support or deny that theory. It's too early to tell, but when you get two people that are using stolen passports from one and two years ago--the odds are like winning the lottery (why don't we have one?) got to be terrorists!!!
on March 9,2014 | 09:37AM
glenn57377 wrote:
Where would Europe and Asia be today after the US mingling in WWII? Where would South Korea be today without mingling? Where would Japan be today if we had not mingled and kept the USSR OUT? Where would Granada be? Panama? What would Iran and Iraq - and Afghanistan be doing? The US and South Vietnamese (and other allies) fought against the failure and horror of communism. Where would Germany be today without US mingling? Do you think North Korea is a fun country to live in? How about we don't mingle with them? We have not had WWIII, yet, because of US mingling. After two world wars in which the US tried to not mingle......look what happened! After WWII, the US decided to mingle to keep WWIII from happening........it is this policy that has kept the worst of nations at bay. Would you enjoy communism? How about genocide? Why are you free today? Who made that possible for you? May God give peace to the deceased in the plane crash. May God give healing to those left behind to grieve.
on March 9,2014 | 10:33AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
All over the world there is peace today, with the exception of Al-Quaida, who are determined to get back at Western allies for who knows what? Maybe it was because the first Bush bombed the heck out of Iraq in 1991. Oh maybe a little rumblings in North Korea and Iran, that's all. It's all because people are suspicious of others. All it would take is one itchy finger and boom, like John Madden, the trigger for World War III begins. Only the man above can help us then. Or maybe Ferd Lewis can help us by writing a Ferd's Words column denoting the significance of UH sports.
on March 9,2014 | 11:00AM
waikiicapt wrote:
Clearly even you must realize how wrong you are? If you are HALF as smart as you think. THERE IS PEACE ALL OVER THE WORLD??? Really? Russia invading Ukraine. Libya at war with itself, poised to blow up a loaded North Korean oil tanker docked in a port held by rebels. Somalia overrun with piracy and no government, that impacts global trade and shipping. West Africa Piracy surging, affecting oil and gas rigs offshore of Nigeria...affecting energy markets. China pushing their weight around in the South China Sea, bullying both our allies and those who are not. China is using military force to escalate claims on islets against against Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, and South Korea. And yes, the ongoing squabble with dear leader 'Junior' in North Korea and the mullahs in Iran (who cling to power in spite of their populations desire to push back). The Middle East is a hot zone of on edge diplomatic efforts to settle border disputes with Israel poised to defend itself militarily against the neighboring Iran, who wishes to wipe Israeli's off the earth. Your liberal perspective on the world's situation is about as bent as our President who is too lazy to even consider a foreign policy plan that he simply can't just read off the teleprompter. Is it any wonder the world is in the condition it is after five years of Obama leadership?? It's crystal clear to me!
on March 9,2014 | 11:59AM
waikiicapt wrote:
Thanks for the reminder. Libs always forget what we have done right. Thats because they don't allow us to teach the 'good stuff' in school anymore. Oh yea, don't forget Mr. 'serious'....the US Marshall Plan basically paid Europe and Japan for everything to raise themselves out of the rubble that THEY caused, but we solved. When Americans went to war, all we asked of them was for a little piece of dirt to bury our dead. Why is that so hard for you people to understand and accept?
on March 9,2014 | 11:49AM
hanalei395 wrote:
warrenkim: "What is really interesting is Vietnam". ........ And after almost a hundred years, on April 30, 1975, the Vietnamese people FINALLY GOT RID of the LAST of the foreign invaders and occupiers in their country.
on March 9,2014 | 05:19PM
holokanaka wrote:
Agree with your post hanalei.
on March 9,2014 | 08:06PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Will be a long and protracted investigation. Just hoping that it was not terrorism, because if it was, who knows what can happen anywhere anytime on Earth.
on March 9,2014 | 10:54AM
waikiicapt wrote:
Dude...you don't get it, do you. There already is terrorism all over the world. But like most Americans overwhelmed by the Kool aid euphoria you succumbed to by Obama prognostications...you can't see it right in front of your face. The US embassy was attacked by terrorists and one of our diplomats was MURDERED. Three other Marines were MURDERED. It's simple. We all know it was planned terrorism, not a simple riot gone wrong 'cuz of a video. That's not opinion. Its fact. But you didn't see or hear this story on KHNL or read it in this 'Red-Star Advertiser' so therefore...you are unaware. A low information voter? You probably don't even vote! And that's a good thing.....
on March 9,2014 | 12:04PM
kiragirl wrote:
Some people like to believe in world peace. Others border on being warmongers. I see nothing wrong being optimistic that world peace is obtainable.
on March 9,2014 | 12:34PM
Waimanalodayz1 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 9,2014 | 01:28PM
kiragirl wrote:
Bad as it sounds, the truth is what it is.
on March 9,2014 | 05:24PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Doesn't sound wise at all to blame an entire religion for the actions of some.
on March 9,2014 | 05:43PM
holokanaka wrote:
Maybe same could be said if you substitute the religion CHRISTIANS for MUSLIMS.crisis
on March 9,2014 | 08:12PM
scuddrunner wrote:
The 777-200 has 4 passenger doors on each side of the plane. The picture of the "door" in the water isn't from a 777.
on March 9,2014 | 03:36PM
holokanaka wrote:
Too hot to print as?
on March 9,2014 | 08:15PM
holokanaka wrote:
Free speech????? 1st amendments rights????? Cancel my phlucking subscription!!!!
on March 9,2014 | 08:18PM
localguy wrote:
SA needs to update their posts. This report was discredited some time ago. Not a part of the aircraft, just some floating debris.
on March 9,2014 | 10:58PM
LadyNinja wrote:
This is truly a sad incident, I believe that more could be done by the Malaysian government to make the process go faster. Imagine keeping all of the family and friends in limbo. Smell maybe a cover up over the stolen passports?
on March 9,2014 | 11:34PM
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