Ever since the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 almost two years ago — on March 8, 2014 — a seemingly endless stream of false leads, unconfirmed theories and bizarre speculation has circulated on the Internet. But the latest strange MH370 theory is more of an outright hoax, and it appears to have fooled numerous Internet users as it went viral last week.
In fact, the shocking hoax gained so much attention online that top Malaysia government officials were forced to issue an issue an official denial.
Possibly originating in an online publication under the name World News Daily Report — though it may have in fact started on a similar site known as Link Beef — the viral hoax centered around an apparent photo of a seriously injured man in a hospital bed, a man the supposed news site identified as Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
This is the photo the sites claimed to show the Flight MH370 pilot that went viral over the past week.
According to the phony “news” report, Shah “has mysteriously reappeared in a Taiwan hospital on Monday, suffering from severe dehydration and some type of amnesia.”
“The 53-year-old pilot was transported at the Taipei Adventist Hospital by a couple of villagers from a nearby town. They claimed to have found the man while he was lying unconscious on the banks of the Tangshui River,” the alleged report asserts.
There is no “Tangshui River” in Taiwan, though, and the hoax story may be attempting to reference the country’s Tamsui River.
— Abel Premnath (@INDDigitalNinja) March 27, 2014
And indeed, the man in the photo has been identified, and is definitely not Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
The hoax-debunking site Snopes.com tracked down the source of the photo and found it at an online publication called The Irrawaddy, devoted to Southeast Asia news. In an article from January 2014, the hospital patient in the photo is identified as “Aung Myo Oo, a Burmese migrant who was attacked by unknown assailants on June 3, 2013.” The hospital in which the unfortunate migrant is seen recovering, according to the Irrawaddy article, is not in Taiwan at all, but in fact in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The article says that the photo of Aung Myo Oo was taken on June 3, 2013, more than nine months before the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Nonetheless, the viral hoax became so persistent that Malaysia Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai issued a flat denial on Friday, calling the report “false news.”
“The ministry will provide updates on MH370 from time to time. Any information regarding MH370 must be referred to us,” Liow cautioned reporters quizzing him about the viral photo claiming to show the Malaysia Airlines pilot alive. “Do not speculate.”
The Malaysia consulate in Taiwan also issued a denial of the hoax report.
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The latest Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 false report joins a long list of strange theories, hoaxes and reports about the baffling fate of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, ranging from the plausible to the outlandish.
Jeff Wise, a science writer and expert on the Flight MH370 case, proposed a theory last year saying that the plane had flown north, rather than south as the official investigators believe, landing somewhere in Kazakhstan — the victim of a highly sophisticated hijacking.
On the other end of the spectrum, CNN news anchor Don Lemon proposed that the Malaysia Airlines plane had been somehow sucked into a black hole.
In the following video, self-described “psychic detective” Michael Winger attempts to solve the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 mystery.
Last week, some family members of Chinese passengers on the missing Flight MH370 issued a statement in which they state their belief that the Malaysia Airlines plane never actually crashed into the Indian Ocean, where the official search effort has been focused since September 2014. Instead, the families say, they believe that — similar to the theory proposed by Wise — the plane was hijacked and the passengers may remain alive somewhere in the world, almost two years later.
[Photo via Twitter]