Songa rig worker ‘saw lost plane burning’

Plane 'sighting': Worker on Songa Mercur claims he may have seen the missing Malaysia Airlines plane burning off Vietnam

A Songa Offshore rig drilling off Vietnam has taken centre stage in the search for a Malaysia Airlines airplane missing along with 239 people over the South China Sea since Saturday.

Reports indicate a worker on the semi-submersible Songa Mercur sent an e-mail from the rig to Vietnamese investigators claiming to have seen what may have been Flight MH370 burning off the coast of Vietnam.

The New Zealander, named as Michael Jerome McKay, claimed in the email – which has been widely distributed on the internet – that he initially tried unsuccessfully to get in contact with Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities regarding the sighting.

A follow-up e-mail to Vietnamese air traffic authorities on Wednesday has, however, been widely reported as a possible sighting of the plane that vanished without a trace on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“Gentlemen, I believe I saw the Malaysian Airlines plane come down. The timing is right,” McKay wrote in the second e-mail.

“I am on the rig Songa Mercur off Vung Tau.

“The surface location of the observation is: Lat 08” 22’ 30.23” N; Long 108” 42’ 22.26” E.

“I observed (the plane?) burning at altitude and on a compass bearing of 265 degrees to 275 degrees from our surface location.

“It is very difficult to judge the distance but I’d say 50-70 kilometres along the compass bearing 260 degrees – 275 degrees.”

McKay claimed that the burning object he saw “appeared to be in one piece” and that the flames went out while the object was still at high altitude. The whole burning episode is said to have lasted 10 to 15 seconds.

“There was no lateral movement, so it was either coming toward our location, stationary (falling) or moving away from our location.”

McKay said the object was flying at a lower altitude than he is used to seeing planes fly in the area.

Assets from numerous countries continue a sea and land search off Vietnam and Malaysia for the missing flight, with any debris so far spotted in the area proving a false hope.

Songa is currently in the process of selling the Songa Mercur and its other unit operating in region, the Songa Venus. It was originally hoped that they would be sold by the end of last year, but chief executive Bjornar Iversen said recently they should be sold in the first half of this year, with four potential buyers currently being sounded out.

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