Posted: 10 Mar 2014 08:38 AM PDT
Updated March 10, 2014 11:37 a.m. ET
KUALA LUMPUR—Malaysian authorities said Monday that no debris from a missing Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -4.00% Malaysian Airline System Bhd Malaysia RM0.24 -0.01 -4.00% March 10, 2014 4:59 pm Volume : 385.06M P/E Ratio N/A Market Cap RM4.18 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee N/A 03/10/14 Massive Search for Malaysian P... 03/10/14 Thailand's 'Robust' Market for... 03/10/14 Missing Plane: Tracking MH370 More quote details and news » jetliner had yet been recovered, despite a massive air and sea search under way for passengers and remains of the plane.
Rescuers at times on Monday gave seemingly conflicting reports on progress in a frustrating hunt for evidence that was punctuated with false leads in the open waters of the suspected crash zone.
A Vietnamese ship tracked down an object spotted from the air that resembled a life raft—only to confirm hours later that the object wasn't a raft and wasn't from the lost plane.
A "naval vessel has secured the object suspected to be a life raft and it turned out not to be a life raft and has no connection with the plane,'' said Pham Viet Dung, chief of the administration of the Civil Aviation Authority and a coordinator of the search for the missing plane.
Later Monday, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said lab results of samples from an oil slick discovered over the weekend confirmed that the material wasn't jet fuel.
The false sightings reflected the dearth of evidence on the whereabouts of the Boeing BA -2.45% Boeing Co. U.S.: NYSE $125.39 -3.15 -2.45% March 10, 2014 12:02 pm Volume (Delayed 15m) : 3.52M P/E Ratio 20.79 Market Cap $95.56 Billion Dividend Yield 2.33% Rev. per Employee $514,388 03/10/14 Massive Search for Malaysian P... 03/10/14 U.S. Stocks Drop on Weak China... 03/10/14 China's Rules for Transit Pass... More quote details and news » 777-200, which disappeared early Saturday on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew.
Until now, no confirmed debris from the plane has been located despite scores of ships and aircraft from several nations scouring the waters between southern Vietnam and Malaysia and as far away as the Malacca Straits.
Vietnamese search and rescue coordinators had released a photograph Sunday of a floating object suspected to be an inner door of the plane. The communications ministry later said on its website that as suspected piece of the tail of the Boeing 777-200 had also been spotted. The debris was about 50 miles south-southwest of Tho Chu island.
But on Monday, Azaharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, told a news briefing that Malaysia had contacted Vietnamese officials overnight and was told "they have not spotted any such object." It wasn't clear whether he was referring to the possible door panel or tail.
Mr. Azharuddin, who is also chief of Malaysia's search and rescue operations, said that two ships had been dispatched to the area after aircraft spotted objects that resembled a tail but "it was logs, and logs tied together that looks like a pontoon."
In Hanoi, officials said they weren't sure they were talking about the same objects as the Malaysians and emphasized that they were out searching in a wider area trying to locate at least the suspected door panel again after being forced to break off Sunday because of darkness.
"We haven't found the object photographed yesterday and we are still searching in that area,'' said Pham Viet Dung, chief of administration for the Vietnam Civil Aviation Authority and a search coordinator said: "We are not sure if Malaysia is talking about that object or something else."
Rear Admiral Ngo Van Phat, who joint oversees the search operations, said: "It's a bit windier today but that doesn't affect our search operations as the view is clear. We are still searching and haven't found anything suspicious today. The object photographed yesterday has yet been relocated."
Meanwhile, Mr. Azharudden said that five passengers who had checked in didn't board the aircraft, but their baggage was removed before the plane departed. He later said that the search area was being doubled to a 100-nautical-mile radius.
The plane's disappearance triggered a search-and-rescue operation across portions of the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea, involving the armed forces of several nations, including the U.S., Malaysia, Vietnam and China.
The inability of searchers to find any substantive portions of the plane, now in the third day of a full-scale search effort, has contributed to the lack of clues for investigators to determine what might have happened to the aircraft.
None of the Beijing-bound plane's transmitters appeared to signal distress before shutting down.
In a massive international investigation, no early theory has emerged about what transpired on the airplane traveling at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet in good weather. The known sequence of events includes elements that seem different from anything in the annals of recent jetliner accidents.
"For now, it seems simply inexplicable," said Paul Hayes, director of safety and insurance at Ascend Worldwide, a British advisory and aviation data firm. "There's no leading theory," he noted, but jetliners "simply don't vanish or disintegrate" and fall out of the sky without warning, unless there is sabotage or some catastrophic structural failure. So far, investigators haven't hinted that they have firm leads on either front.
Over the weekend, family members and loved ones desperate for information about the flight camped out in hotels near the airports in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur. As night fell Sunday, many families were increasingly distraught over the lack of news.
"We're actually prepared for the worst," said Che Yutian, a relative of a 24-year-old Chinese passenger. "We just want to know what happened. We need answers."
The airline said Sunday it was working with authorities and that its "primary focus" was to care for the families of those on board. Malaysia Airlines' stock was down 10% in Asia trading Monday.
The plane's disappearance has already exposed flaws in global air safety. The disclosure that two passengers had stolen passports led Interpol to warn that few countries are rigorously checking its database to foil that practice. The probe also is expected to reignite debate over upgrading so-called black box technology to better track problems with flights as they develop.
Some answers could come as pieces of the wreckage are retrieved. But some of what is known, air-safety experts said, underscores how unusual this probe is shaping up to be.
Normally a range of electronic transmissions help investigators and controllers track a plane's altitude, direction and speed. But those so-called transponders aboard the Boeing 777 apparently didn't report anything amiss, until they stopped working altogether.
Big jets also carry sturdy emergency transmitters to identify an aircraft's location in the event of a mishap, so rescue teams can quickly reach the site. These devices, designed to be activated by impact on land or water, haven't sent any signals that were picked up by searchers, Malaysian aviation regulators said over the weekend.
"Never have I seen an aircraft losing control and losing all communication" simultaneously, said Mark Martin of aviation consultancy Martin Consulting. In several crashes over the years, an emergency locator beacon helped lead search and rescue teams to crash sites.
Malaysian military radar readings indicated the plane may have reversed course, the country's air force chief said Sunday, and investigators were examining whether the plane attempted to turn around after encountering a problem.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, U.S. counterterrorism officials were still puzzling over the mysterious details and were hesitant to say terrorism could be involved. But they also didn't rule it out.
In recent weeks, U.S. officials have been tracking possible airliner terrorist plots, such as ones involving toothpaste bombs. "That's why we're so concerned," a senior U.S. official said. "We are tracking several airline plots." The official was quick to note there was no evidence of terrorism in the Malaysia case as of Sunday night.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos " that the U.S. military didn't detect any type of midair explosion.
The Search for Flight 370
"There is nothing that…I have seen that would indicate anything of the sort, which is certainly adding to the mystery," Mr. Rogers said. "They're going to have to find some part of the wreckage somewhere in order to start making those determinations, if it was mechanical or something else.
The use of stolen passports by two passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight raises concerns. Neither document was screened by immigration personnel against the agency's database of stolen travel documents, Interpol said.
U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement officials were working to identify the two men with stolen passports, scouring airport surveillance video and hunting for evidence such as fingerprints or other biometric identifiers, the senior U.S. official said.
A team of American aviation accident investigators, led by National Transportation Safety Board experts, were dispatched Saturday to Southeast Asia to provide assistance. The team includes technical advisers from Boeing Co. and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The NTSB's decision, according to air-safety officials, indicates that at least at this point, U.S. aviation regulators and safety watchdogs are treating the plane's disappearance as an accident rather than an act of terrorism. The safety board investigators, rather than U.S. law-enforcement or national-security officials, are the public face of America's response.
—Andy Pasztor, Gaurav Raghuvanshiand and Jon Ostrower contributed to this article.
Posted: 10 Mar 2014 08:53 AM PDT
Day six of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial begins with the judge banning the live broadcast of postmortem evidence of Reeva Steenkamp's death. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters Newslook
Double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius vomited and wept in a South African courtroom Monday as a pathologist described the injuries sustained by Pistorius' girlfriend the night she was fatally shot in his home.
Pistorius became ill as pathologist Gert Saayman, who conducted the autopsy on Reeva Steenkamp, testified in Pretoria that one bullet entered her head, ran under her skull and into her brain before exiting, South Africa's Times Live reported.
Judge Thokozile Masipa repeatedly offered to delay the testimony if Pistorius was too ill to continue, but testimony was halted only briefly. Defense lawyer Barry Roux declined, and a bucket was placed at the defendant's feet.
The trial has been televised, but Masipa did ban broadcast of Saayman's testimony to protect the dignity of Steenkamp and her family.
Pistorius, 27, is accused of premeditated murder in the death of Steenkamp, 29, on Valentine's Day 2013. Pistorius has said he was awakened in the night by a noise in the bathroom he thought was an intruder. He fired four shots through the bathroom door.
Also Monday, Roux produced cellphone records and told security guard shift leader Pieter Baba that, contrary to his testimony, Pistorius called security before building security called him.
"Pistorius called you first at 3:21 a.m., and he will tell the court that he could not speak and very shortly after that at 3:22 a.m. you called him back to find out if he is all right," Roux said.
Baba testified that he called Pistorius, who told him that "everything was fine." When pressed about the records, Baba was firm. "This is not true that he called me first, I called him first. I am the one who made that first call to him."
The sequence is important for the defense because, if it can prove that Pistorius called security first, it could support the contention that he was seeking help as quickly as possible.
PHOTOS: Murder trial of Oscar Pistorius
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