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'Fresh set of eyes needed'

Interview: Gabriel DomínguezJune 9, 2014

Several families of those aboard Flight MH370 have launched a fund-raising drive to encourage an insider to come forward. Sarah Bajc, whose partner was on the flight, tells DW she believes information is being withheld.

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Image: reuters

The fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been shrouded in mystery ever since the passenger jet left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing in the early morning hours of March 8 with 239 people on board. While the Boeing 777 is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, international search efforts have so far failed to provide any clues as to what happened to the plane.

Objects spotted by radar, ships and airplanes that have turned out to be floating garbage have led to growing frustration among the victims' relatives. Some of them fear the authorities might know more than they are willing to reveal and have therefore launched the "Reward MH370" campaign on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. The project aims to raise at least 5 million USD "to encourage a whistleblower to come forward with information," the families said in a press release.

In a DW interview, Sarah Bajc, whose partner Philip Wood was on board the flight, talks about why some of the victims' families mistrust the conclusions reached by the authorities and why they consider an insider is needed to help solve the mystery of Flight MH370.

DW: How many of the victims' relatives are participating in the "Reward MH370" campaign?

Sarah Bajc: "Reward MH370" has been organized by a team of seven people, including five family members and two independents.

What is the purpose of the campaign?

The main purpose of the campaign is to raise funds to provide a reward for a whistleblower to come forward with information that leads us to find the plane. A portion of the funds will also be used to fund a private investigation firm to chase those leads.

Philip Wood (L) and his partner Sarah Bajc Copyright: private
"I am fully committed to bringing Philip home, be that in celebration, or to his final resting place," says Bajc (R)Image: privat

We are confident that we will raise at least a substantial portion of our goal of 5 million USD. We do believe it is possible we could even exceed that goal. If we can, we will make the reward even larger.

Why do you think a whistleblower is needed to provide more information on the fate of the missing plane?

Over the last three months, there have been many indications that information is being withheld and/or modified prior to release to the public. That makes us confident that there are people who know more than is being shared. That may even include someone who knows exactly where the plane is, and perhaps even the details of what happened. Our hope is that someone will come forward with the information needed to find the plane. A fresh set of eyes is needed.

What evidence do you have that information is being withheld?

Besides the dozens of changed or redacted stories, there was the preliminary report itself. The cargo manifest was missing pages of information, the air traffic control audio files appear to be tampered with, and there are a significant number of factual inaccuracies in the 'Actions Taken' report. There is also the modified data release from Inmarsat and the withdrawal of the acoustic pings from consideration as leads.

What information do you hope a whistleblower will provide?

We have set parameters for submissions to include the need for concrete evidence to support the claim. Evidence may include photographs, audio clips, genuine documents, and validated eyewitness accounts. A theory based on circumstantial evidence, or on ambiguous satellite photos, would not be considered a valid lead.

It seems that you are not satisfied with the conclusions the authorities have reached so far. Why is that?

It just doesn't sound reasonable to us. If we are to accept the conclusion provided by the authorities, then we must also accept the reasonableness of the following things:

First, it is possible for a fully loaded Boeing 777 to crash in the water without a single piece of debris surfacing in the ocean, on a beach, or in fishing nets over a three-month period of time. Second, a Five Power Defense Arrangement military base at Butterworth, Malaysia either didn't see or ignored a huge unidentified object flying almost directly over its base.

Third, Australia's famous JORN over-the-horizon radar defenses were not operating on March 8. And last but not least, a mechanical failure could happen that is significant enough to knock out all communication capabilities and human intervention, yet still allow the auto-pilot to fly the airplane smoothly for many hours.

Do you have any indications of intentional misdirection on the part of the authorities?

We have no proof that the authorities are intentionally misdirecting this investigation, however, if it is not intentional misdirection, it certainly is gross incompetence. The Malaysian government is continuing to stay in control of an operation they have clearly failed at. This is an intentional decision to remain an obstacle, which is then intentional misdirection through stubborn ignorance and pride.

What it your personal feeling as to what happened to the plane?

I have too many feelings to put into words. That is why I am on a quest to find facts. Only proof will lead us to the plane and the passengers. I am fully committed to bringing Philip home, be that in celebration, or to his final resting place.

A Japan Coast Guard (JCG) studies a map with a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency pilot (L) in JCG's Gulfstream V Jet aircraft customized for search and rescue operations as they search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane over the waters of the South China Sea March 15, 2014. Investigators believe someone aboard the missing Malaysian airliner deliberately shut off its communications and tracking systems, turned the plane around and flew for nearly seven hours after it vanished,
"The conclusions reached by the authorities just don't sound reasonable to us," says BajcImage: Reuters

How are you and other relatives of the victims coping with this difficult situation?

We are coping with the situation by staying busy and doing what we can to continue to push for the truth. The only other option would be hopelessness and despair, but that solves nothing.

An international team is now determining an expanded search zone of up to 60,000 square kilometers. What more would you like authorities to do to help find the missing plane and passengers?

We are confident in Australia's ability to run a competent underwater search. Our challenge to the investigation, however, is that we believe they are looking in the wrong place because of failures in the early stages of the investigation.

We are hoping that the authorities will cooperate with our efforts should we find appropriate leads to pursue beyond what our investigation firm can pursue. Our call for a whistleblower to come forward aims to identify the correct place to find the plane. At that point we will of course need to get the authorities to drive that search and rescue process.

Sarah Bajc teaches economics and business studies in Beijing, China. Her partner Philip Wood was on Flight MH370 when it disappeared March 8.