An oil rig worker who was fired from his job after saying that he saw the MH370 plane “come down” has given his first detailed interview in which he says that the current official search is happening in the wrong place.
He believes the plane came down in the China south sea.
“I’ve thought about it and thought about it, over and over and while I cannot say for certain that the burning object in the sky was definitely MH370, the timing fits in with when the Malaysian plane lost contact. I have been trying to disprove that what I saw was the aeroplane ever since.”
And so far he has failed to disprove it. Speaking at his Auckland home where he now sits out his days after losing his job as a result of sending out the email on his company computer on the rig off the south of Vietnam, Mr McKay said that everyone believed he had said with certainty that he saw MH370 crash in flames into the South China Sea.
“Unfortunately my words were misinterpreted. I was careful to say that I ‘believed’ I saw the aircraft come down. The email was never for public consumption.
“And if it was the plane that has been missing for so long, then the search in the southern Indian Ocean is clearly in the wrong place.”
Mr McKay was speaking after a group of relatives of Chinese passengers who were on the plane arrived in Malaysia from Beijing to demand answers from Malaysia Airlines and the government.
Among their demands was an answer to why the Malaysian government had announced recently that the fate of MH370 was an accident.
Mr McKay told MailOnline he was in no position to say what had caused the object to burst into flames, but added: “If it was MH370 I cannot imagine how it could have continued flying. It could only have come down in the South China Sea.”
He had gone to bed on the oil rig Songa Mercur, located off the coast of the Vietnamese town of Vung Tau, at his usual time of around 7pm.
“I got up at around midnight Vietnam Time, which is one hour ahead of Malaysian time, and wandered around to an area at the back as usual for a cigarette and a coffee. It was a beautiful night with good visibility because it had been raining, which always tends to clear the air.
“It would have been some time after 1am (Malaysian Time) that I saw a sudden glow of fire above the horizon, which caught my immediate attention, although, of course I could not have known whether it was definitely an aircraft or not.”
Mr McKay said he took no immediate action but when he learned the following day that MH370 was missing – when it should have flown on across southern Vietnam towards Beijing – he tried in vain to contact Malaysian and Vietnamese officials.
On March 12 – three days after his sighting – he sent out an email to Vietnamese officials declaring: “I believe I saw the Malaysian Airlines plane come down. The timing is right.”
He described where he was writing from and gave his latitude and longitude bearings. He then added: “I observed (the plane?) burning at high altitude on a compass bearing of 265 degrees to 275 degrees from our surface location.”
He went on: “While I observed the burning (plane) it appeared to be in ONE piece…
“From when I first saw the burning (plane) until the flames went out (still at high altitude) was 10-15 seconds. There was no lateral movement, so it was either coming toward our location, stationary (falling) or going away from our location.”
The general position of the object, he said, was south west of the normal flight paths of aircraft he and his co-workers saw every day and at a lower altitude than the normal flight paths.
Mr McKay, who has worked in the oil and gas exploration industry for more than 30 years, said that since he was “kicked off” the rig after his email went public and the computers became overloaded he has spent many months pondering what he had seen – and remains unmoved in his opinion that if he had observed a burning plane it must have gone down in the South China Sea.
“There’s a lot about this whole affair that niggles me and I’ve considered numerous questions as to whether there has been a cover up or there has been a show of inefficiency. I learned that Malaysian military had picked up a possible signal over Penang (an island off the west coast of the Malaysian peninsular) but didn’t report it immediately.
“Of course, if it was from the plane, it means that contrary to my belief that it had come down in the South China Sea it had managed to turn around and fly back across the mainland.
“But what has also annoyed me is the fact that the Vietnamese searchers were stood-down after performing one flight based on my observation before the whole search effort was moved to the other side of the peninsular.”
Asked if he had a theory about what might have caused the fire, he said an incident that came to mind was an explosion in a similar aircraft that was on a runway at Cairo airport in 2011, which was caused by oxygen escaping from disabled tubing and catching fire.