Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Searchers may have spotted plane door

It was near the oil slicks. Details emerged about two using false papers.

A relative of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 cries at a hotel in Beijing where families were gathered awaiting word on their loved ones.
A relative of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 cries at a hotel in Beijing where families were gathered awaiting word on their loved ones. FENG LI / Getty Images
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Vietnamese air crew spotted what it suspected was one of the doors of a missing Boeing 777 on Sunday as questions arose about how two passengers managed to board the aircraft using stolen passports.

Interpol confirmed it knew about the stolen passports but said no authorities checked its vast databases on stolen documents before the jetliner left Saturday from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

Pointing out that "only a handful of countries" routinely make such checks, Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble chided authorities for "waiting for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates."

More than two days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, the final minutes before its disappearance remained a mystery. The plane lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam.

On Sunday, searchers in a low-flying plane spotted an object that appeared to be one of the plane doors, the Vietnamese state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said, citing the deputy chief of staff of the army, Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan.

Two ships from the maritime police were headed to the site, about 60 miles south of Tho Chu island in the Gulf of Thailand, the same area where oil slicks were spotted Saturday.

The jetliner apparently fell from the sky at cruising altitude in fine weather, and the pilots were either unable or had no time to send a distress signal - unusual circumstances under which a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline would crash.

Authorities were checking on the identities of the two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

"I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on [closed-circuit TV]," Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said late Sunday.

The thefts of the two passports - one belonging to Austrian Christian Kozel and the other to Luigi Maraldi of Italy - were entered into Interpol's database after they were stolen in Thailand in 2012 and last year, the police body said.

Electronic booking records show one-way tickets with those names were issued Thursday from a travel agency in the beach resort of Pattaya in eastern Thailand. A person who answered the phone at the agency said she could not comment.

But no authorities in Malaysia or elsewhere checked the passports against the database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents before the Malaysian Airlines plane took off.

In a forceful statement, the Interpol chief said he hoped "that governments and airlines worldwide will learn from the tragedy."

"Now, we have a real case where the world is speculating whether the stolen passport holders were terrorists," Noble said.

Details also emerged Sunday about the itineraries of the two passengers traveling on the stolen passports.

A telephone operator on a KLM hotline in China confirmed Sunday that passengers using the names Maraldi and Kozel had one-way tickets on a KLM flight bound from Beijing to Amsterdam on Saturday. Maraldi was to fly on to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kozel to Frankfurt, Germany.

Eileen Ng and Chris Brummitt Associated Press
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