December 18, 2014
Malaysian plane: questions over false IDs
A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew was presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast, and European officials said two people on board were using false identities.
There were no reports of bad weather and no sign why the Boeing 777-200ER would have vanished from radar screens about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.
"We are not ruling out any possibilities," Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a news conference.
By the early hours of Sunday, there were no confirmed signs of the plane or any wreckage, more than 24 hours after it went missing. Operations will continue through the night, officials said.
There were no indications of sabotage nor claims of a terrorist attack. But the passenger manifest issued by the airline included the names of two Europeans - Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi - who, according to their foreign ministries, were not in fact on the plane.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Vienna said: "Our embassy got the information that there was an Austrian on board. That was the passenger list from Malaysia Airlines. Our system came back with a note that this is a stolen passport."
Austrian police had found the man safe at home. The passport was stolen two years ago while he was travelling in Thailand, the spokesman said.
The foreign ministry in Rome said no Italian was on the plane either, despite the inclusion of Maraldi's name on the list. His mother, Renata Lucchi, told reporters his passport was lost, presumed stolen, in Thailand in 2013.
The 11-year-old Boeing, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines, took off at 12:40 am (1640 GMT Friday) from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and was apparently flying in good weather conditions when it went missing without a distress call.
A crash, if confirmed, would likely mark the US-built airliner's deadliest incident since entering service 19 years ago. It would also be the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in less than a year.
Boeing said it was monitoring the situation but had no further comment.