Malaysia Airlines Flight MH37 remained missing Saturday morning, but the mystery of its disappearance deepened as officials confirmed that two passengers listed on the plane’s manifest were traveling on stolen passports.
Also Saturday, Vietmanese Air Force pilots searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane reported seeing large oil slicks, between six and 10 miles long, off the southern tip of Vietnam, the area where Vietnamese officials suspect the flight may have plunged into the South China Sea.
Jauhari Yahya, the CEO of Malaysia Airlines, said that the pilots of the missing plane never sent out a distress signal, which appears to indicate that whatever caused the plane to suddenly vanish from radar and radio contact with air traffic control happened so suddenly that they didn’t even have time to react.
Search organizers could not confirm that the oil slicks spotted by the Vietnamese pilots actually came from the Malaysia Airlines jet, but the slicks appeared consistent with the type that could be caused by spilled jet fuel.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was transporting 239 passengers and crew from Kuala Lumpur to Beihing. The missing passengers came from numerous countries, including 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, six Australians, three Americans and two Canadians.
But it is the identities of one Italian and one Austrian that are catching the eye of investigators Saturday, as foreign ministries in both of those countries confirmed that two passengers whose names were listed on the flight manifest had reported their passports stolen in Thailand, according to an Associated Press report.
The identity of the Austrian passport holder has not been made public yet. But the Italian has been identified as 37-year-old Luigi Maraldi, who is alive and still traveling in Thailand, according to a report on MalaysianDigest.com.
Maraldi has called his parents in Cesena, Italy, to report that he is alive and well and was not on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
The Italian tourist reported that his passport was stolen in Thailand on August 1 of last year.
Martin Weiss, a spokesperson for Austria’s foreign ministry, would not confirm the name of the Austrian national whose name was on the manifest, but did say that the name is the same as that on an Austrian passport reported stolen in Thailand two years ago.
As the reports of stolen passports circulated Saturday, Malaysia’s Deputy Transportation Minister was asked whether Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could have been downed by terrorists. Datuk Abdul Aziz replied that surveillance video of passengers and their bags had been reviewed and “so far, we are satisfied with everything.”
The pilots on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight were highly experienced, with more than 20,000 hours in the air.