- (Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
Contrary to media reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not yet involved in the probe concerning a Malaysian Airlines plane that remains missing since Saturday with 239 people on-board, including a Christian man, a toddler and a child from the United States.
Malaysia has not sought help from the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security, and the agencies have not sent investigators, a U.S. official told Reuters, of the probe into the sudden disappearance of flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER.
The agencies have offered to help though, as they have the required forensic and analytic tools and criminal investigation expertise, the source added.
However, a small team of experts from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing arrived in Kuala Lumpur Monday, the newswire reports.
Some media indicated that the FBI was helping the investigation after reports that two of the passengers were traveling with stolen passports – one Austrian and one Italian – and therefore it could be a terrorist attack.
Malaysian media quoted Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying the passengers using the stolen passports were of Asian appearance.
Interpol tweeted Sunday that it was "examining additional suspect #passports in connection."
The flight took off at 12:40 a.m. Saturday from Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on-board. It lost contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.
An American aboard, 50-year-old Philip Wood, is an IBM executive from North Texas who moved to East Asia. Two other Americans are listed as Nicole Meng, 4, and Yan Zhang, 2.
The family described Wood as "incredibly generous, creative and intelligent," who "above all, [cared for] Christ." "Though our hearts are hurting, we know so many families around the world are affected just as much as us by this terrible tragedy," his family said in a statement. "We ask for your prayers, not only for ourselves, but for all involved during this difficult time."
It is being suspected the plane may have disintegrated in mid-flight over the South China Sea.
Late Sunday, two objects, suspected to be debris from the disappeared jet, were seen from the air about 50 miles southwest of Vietnam's Tho Chu Island, according to Vietnam's local media. Two large oil slicks were also seen off Tho Chu on Saturday.
"All night we mobilized our most modern equipment for the search ... but we found no sign of the objects," Vice Admiral Ngo Van Phat told AFP. "Two boats left this morning to patrol all maritime zones around Tho Chu Island where we discovered the two objects."
The boats couldn't find the objects, Phat told Reuters Monday.
Malaysia's aviation regulators on Monday admitted they were puzzled by the case. The Department of Civil Aviation said it was not discounting any possibilities in the unprecedented "missing aircraft mystery," according to The Malay Mail.
"At the moment, when we don't have any solid evidence there are surely many theories swirling about but they are not conclusive," The Star newspaper quoted Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as saying.
A U.S. government source told Reuters the United States had no evidence of a mid-air explosion despite extensively reviewing imagery taken by its spy satellites.
The plane was carrying people from 14 countries and territories: 152 from China; 38 from Malaysia; seven from Indonesia; six from Australia; five from India; three each from France and the United States; two each from New Zealand, Ukraine and Canada; and one each from Russia, Italy, Taiwan, Netherlands and Austria, according to Malaysian Airlines.
Five years ago, Air France Flight AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, and investigators took three years to identify the reasons – errors by the pilots and a failure to react effectively to technical problems.