Malaysian authorities may have concluded that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, but in the absence of a physical discovery of its wreckage, many relatives of passengers as well as conspiracy theorists continue to believe that the Boeing 777-200 and the 239 people on board may have met a different fate.
While the multinational search team continues to comb the waters off the west coast of Australia in search of potential debris picked up on satellite images, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak declared Tuesday morning that analysts have concluded that the plane, which disappeared on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, had crashed into the sea, with the loss of all on board.
“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites,” he said. “It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”
Some family members of the passengers have refused to accept the announcement, saying that they will not lose hope as long as the wreckage has not been found. Others insist, given the numerous contradictory statements and backtracks from Malaysian officials and admissions that certain information has been kept from the public for “security” reasons, that there is a sinister plot or cover-up involved.
Their optimism that passengers may still be alive has been fueled by theories surrounding the plane’s baffling disappearance, especially as investigators have failed to come up with any definitive explanations or motives as to why the plane “deliberately” switched off its communications systems, diverted from its course and apparently ended up on the other side of the planet. It is also still not clear why military radar showed that the plane ascended to 45,000 ft — exceeding the maximum altitude of Boeing 777s — after the initial turn west before diving back down to 23,000 ft. The last satellite “ping” picked up at least five hours after the plane disappeared suggested it was still cruising at 30,000ft.
Some families of the passengers are clinging to the hijacking theory on the basis that the plane could have landed safely with everyone or board being held in a secret location. Some have speculated that the plane could have landed on obscure strips in southern Mongolia, Somalia or even Taliban territory on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, though available military radar data in these regions have indicated otherwise.
Apart from claims of a UFO abduction or a Bermuda Triangle-style disappearance into another dimension, one of the most outlandish conspiracy theories is that the flight MH370 plane was diverted onto a US Navy support facility on the island of Diego Garcia.
The European Union Times,has reported that, based on an alleged intelligence report from the Kremlin, the US Navy had “captured and then diverted” flight MH370 to the Diego Garcia facility due to a “highly suspicious” cargo load that traces back to the US-flagged container ship MV Maersk Alabama. The cargo, which was examined by top disease experts from the US and China on Diego Garcia, was then flown to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on March 19 where it was destroyed in a “massive fireball.” It is not clear what happened to the passengers.
Around 300 relatives of flight MH370 passengers staged a protest at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on Tuesday demanding the Malaysian government reveal the “truth.” The Chinese government has also asked that Malaysia immediately provide all evidence leading to the conclusion that the plane crashed.
Conspiracy theories aside, the most prominent explanation that appears to fit with the latest findings is that a catastrophic event mid-flight, such as a mechanical failure, caused the cabin to depressurize, incapacitating everyone on board as the plane continued to fly unpiloted until it ran out of fuel and plunged into the ocean.
The UK’s Daily Telegraph, however, reported that “well-placed sources” believe that flight MH370 was deliberately crashed into the ocean in “an apparent suicide mission.”
One unnamed official source said investigators are convinced that what happened to the flight was “a deliberate act by someone on board who had to have had the detailed knowledge to do what was done,” though nothing so far points to a motive.
The source also said investigators are skeptical of the mechanical failure theory, saying it “does not hinge together” as available evidence suggests the plane was “being flown in a rational way.”
The problem with the hijack or sabotage theory, however, is that investigators have so far been unable to discover anything suspicious from the backgrounds of anyone on board. Earlier, authorities suspected two Iranians who boarded the plane with fake passports, though they were later ruled out as they appeared to have been simply trying to emigrate illegally to Europe.
The focus of the investigation is currently on 53-year-old captain, Zaharie Ahmed Shah, after his 27-year-old co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, was cleared. Though neither pilot had known financial or mental issues, Shah was found to have a home-built flight simulator that he had deleted files on a month earlier and political affiliations with Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was jailed for five years on a controversial sodomy charge just hours before the flight. None of these leads have panned out for investigators, who are now looking into reports that Shah received a two-minute call from a mystery woman using a number obtained with a false identity shortly before takeoff. They are also reportedly under pressure from the FBI to interview Shah’s estranged wife, whom some reports say moved out of their family home the day before the flight.
Until debris from the wreckage is confirmed, it is unlikely that conspiracy theories on the whereabouts of the plane will die down. And unless the black box is retrieved, relatives of passengers and crew on flight MH370 might never know the full truth of what really happened.