PETALING JAYA: New Zealand daily, the Sunday Star Times, has reported that Mike McKay, the New Zealander who claimed to have sighted a burning aircraft going down off the Vietnamese coast in March, has been sacked from his job following that claim.
McKay, who was working on the Songa Mercur oil rig, had sent an email with his full name and New Zealand passport number to his superiors in March after he saw what he believed was a burning plane, suspected to be missing Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.
The email, which was leaked to the media contained details which identified the rig operator, Idemitsu and McKay’s contractor, Songa Offshore, details which led to the two companies having their communications blocked due to a flood of inquiries.
Following this, Vietnamese officials interviewed McKay and were prepared to act on his information before search efforts shifted to the Andaman sea two days after his interview.
McKay had also made a statement for Interpol to the New Zealand police upon his return to the country, where he is now waiting for a new Southeast Asia contract.
The Sunday Star Times quoted McKay as saying that he was released from the rig five days early, but paid up to the end of the work period.
However, the subcontractor who he was working under, M-I Swaco, had said McKay was being released early as they had found a local-salary engineer to replace him.
McKay, a veteran of 35 years of work in Southeast Asia added that “contracts mean little in the oil field” and maintained that he believed the burning aircraft he saw at high altitude was MH370
“I believe I saw the Malaysian Airlines plane come down. The timing is right,” said McKay, who added that the aircraft he claims to have spotted was off the normal flight path, based on daily observations of contrails.
In his email, McKay, who had been working in Vietnamese waters consistently since 2008, had included specific details such as his exact location on the Songa Mercur, the compass bearing of the sighting in relation to the rig, the surface current and wind direction.
McKay is not the only person to have come forward with a burning airliner sighting, with 41-year old British sailor Katherine Tee reporting a sighting in early March.
Tee, 41, said she was sailing from Cochin, India towards Phuket, Thailand with her husband Marc Horn, 50, when she saw what looked like a plane on fire crossing the night sky during her lone night watch on March 7-8.
“I saw something that looked like a plane on fire. That’s what I thought it was. Then, I thought I must be mad … It caught my attention because I had never seen a plane with orange lights before, so I wondered what they were,” she told the Phuket Gazette.
Tee said the outline of the plane “looked longer than planes usually do”, with what appeared to be a black plume of smoke streaming from its rear.
On that night, two other planes with normal navigation lights were moving in the opposite direction.
“I remember thinking that if it was a plane on fire that I was seeing, the other aircraft would report it,” she added.
Tee did not share her experience with anyone until they arrived in Phuket on March 10.
MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, left the KL International Airport at 12.41am on March 8 and disappeared from radar screens about an hour later, while over the South China Sea. It was to have arrived in Beijing at 6.30am on the same day.
A multinational search was mounted for the aircraft, first in the South China Sea and then, after it was learned that the plane had veered off course, along two corridors – from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand and the southern corridor, from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak then announced on March 24 – 17 days after the disappearance of the aircraft – that Flight MH370 had “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”, following analysis of data released by United Kingdom satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat.