PHUKET, Thailand – A British woman claims she may have seen the missing Malaysian Flight MH370 while sailing on board a yacht across the Indian Ocean with her husband in March, the Phuket Gazette reports.
The couple had been on a holiday and was at sea for 13 months sailing from Cochin, India to Phuket, Thailand when the woman supposedly saw a plane on fire with a trail of thick black smoke behind it one night.
Katherine Tee, 41, was on a night watch while her 50-year old husband, Marc Horn and another crew member, was sleeping on deck when something unusual above them mesmerized her.
“I saw something that looked like a plane on fire. That’s what I thought it was. Then, I thought I must be mad,” she recalled. “It caught my attention because I had never seen a plane with orange lights before, so I wondered what they were.”
“I could see the outline of the plane, it looked longer than planes usually do. There was what appeared to be black smoke streaming from behind it,” she added.
Tee, who is from Liverpool, also remembered seeing two other aircrafts over the ‘burning plane’ and moving in the opposite direction, but had normal navigation lights. “I remember thinking that if it was a plane on fire that I was seeing, the other aircraft would report it.”
“And then, I wondered again why it had such bright orange lights. They reminded me of sodium lights. I thought it could be some anomaly or just a meteor,” she said.
Katherine added the plane with orange light was crossing behind the boat’s stern from the north and moved away to the south.
When they arrived in Phuket on March 10, 2 days after MH370 disappeared, she heard about the tragedy on the news but decided not to tell her husband and kept everything to herself because they were having marital problems.
She said the year-long travel with her husband out on the sea had somehow affected their relationship and they have not spoken for about a week.
However, she told some local sailors in Phuket about what she witnessed that night, some of whom suggested she should report the incident.
But varying versions of stories that time kept Katherine undecided, with some saying the plane headed towards Vietnam. She was also unsure about the time and date of her sightings.
The barrage of news on MH370 that followed in the next several days also made her think whether what she saw would even matter to the authorities, believing there are more capable people who can utilize technology to track the missing plane. Besides, she remains unsure of what she saw and was also unsure if anyone would ever believe her story.
“I didn’t even consider putting out a Mayday at the time. Imagine what an idiot I would have looked like if I was mistaken, and I believed I was,” she told the Phuket Gazette. “So I dismissed it, and got on with the business of fixing myself and my marriage.”
But when news of the MH370 underwater search operation had been halted due to a survey ship’s technical problem reached Katherine, she went back to review their yacht’ logs. Her husband, Marc, helped her on tracking their route via a map website, Cruisers Forum.
The result convinced them their route on that night was within the proximity of the MH370’s projected flight path at the time the Malaysian military radar detected an unknown aircraft hovering towards the Gulf of Thailand but was ignored. It also confirmed what Katherine remembered about the plane on fire crossing their boat’s stern from north to south.
“This is what convinced me… to file a report with the full track data for our voyage to the relevant authorities,” she said.
The couple then filed a report on Saturday with the Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC), the Australian-led agency leading the search operation. But there was no response, so far, from JACC, according to Katherine.
While Katherine is not hoping their report would finally help find the missing aircraft or give closure to the families of those missing, she however regrets for “sweeping under the carpet” what she saw that night, and was sorry she didn’t have the confidence to take the action sooner.