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Call traced to co-pilot's phone
AIRBORNE CONTACT: Telco tower in Penang picked up phone signal
KUALA LUMPUR: A CREW member of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 made a
desperate call from his mobile phone as the plane was flying low near
Penang, the morning it went missing.
The latest breakthrough in the ongoing criminal investigation traced
the source of the call to co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's phone.
The New Straits Times has learnt that investigators are poring over
this discovery as they try to piece together what had happened moments
before the Boeing 777-22ER twinjet went off the radar, some 200
nautical miles (320km) northwest of Penang on March 8.
It is understood that the aircraft with 239 people on board was flying
at an altitude low enough for the nearest telecommunications tower to
pick up his phone's signal.
His call, however, ended abruptly, but not before contact was
established with a telecommunications sub-station in the state.
However, the NST is unable to ascertain who Fariq was trying to call
as sources chose not to divulge details of the investigation. The
links that police are trying to establish are also unclear.
"The telco's (telecommunications company's) tower established the call
that he was trying to make. On why the call was cut off, it was likely
because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not
come under the coverage of the next one," the sources said.
It was also established that Fariq's last communication through the
WhatsApp Messenger application was about 11.30pm on March 7, just
before he boarded the aircraft for his six-hour flight to Beijing.
The NST was also told that checks on Fariq's phone history showed that
the last person he spoke to was "one of his regular contacts (a number
that frequently appears on his outgoing phone logs)".
This call was made no more than two hours before the flight took off
at 12.41am from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
A different set of sources close to the investigations told the NST
that checks on Fariq's phone showed that connection to the phone had
been "detached" before the plane took off.
"This is usually the result of the phone being switched off. At one
point, however, when the airplane was airborne, between waypoint Igari
and the spot near Penang (just before it went missing from radar), the
line was 'reattached'.
"A 'reattachment' does not necessarily mean that a call was made. It
can also be the result of the phone being switched on again," the
The flight, with a crew of 12, was supposed to take off at 12.35am.
The jetliner disappeared from commercial radar about an hour later,
while it was flying over the South China Sea. It was supposed to have
landed in Beijing at 6.30am the same day.
Experts said it was possible for a mobile phone to be connected to a
telecommunications tower at an altitude of 7,000 feet.
An NST exclusive on March 16, quoted investigators as saying that the
jetliner had dropped to as low as 5,000 feet after it made the
turnback at waypoint Igari in the South China Sea before it crossed
Peninsular Malaysia headed towards Penang.
Meanwhile, Fariq's cousin Nursyafiqah Kamarudin, 18, told the NST on
Monday that Fariq, who would have turned 28 on April 1, was very close
to his mother.
"If Fariq could make one call before the plane disappeared, it would
have been to her."
Police have not cleared the 227 passengers of the flight MH370 of
possible foul play. Clearance has also not been given to the crew.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had, on April 2,
said they had "obtained some clues" on what might have happened to the
flight, based on the statements recorded from 176 people. This number
has climbed to 205 as of yesterday.
Khalid had also said the crew were among the main "subjects of the
Their probe had been focused on four possible areas -- hijack,
sabotage, as well as personal and psychological problems.
They are investigating the case under Section 130C of the Penal Code,
which deals with hijacking, terrorism and sabotage offences, as well
as the Security Offences (Special Measures) and Aviation Offences
On why these findings were not made known, the sources said, like
criminal investigations by any police force, details of an ongoing
probe would not be made public.
"Not only are they not obliged to, it also puts the investigation at
risk if the findings are revealed," the sources said.
The team carrying out this probe is separate from the International
Investigating Team (IIT), which comprises agencies with expertise in
satellite communications and aircraft performance.
The IIT is also represented by Inmarsat, Air Accidents Investigation
Branch (AAIB) and Rolls-Royce from the United Kingdom, China's Civil
Aviation Administration and Aircraft Accident Investigation Department
(AAID), and from the United States, National Transportation and Safety
Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Bureau
Investigation and the Triple Seven's manufacturer, Boeing.
This team had been working over the past weeks, refining data,
including those extracted from radars and satellites, in narrowing
down the search area, which has since been centred in the Indian
While some details from the IIT's investigations have been released to
appease family members' and the media's demand for information, police
said they were not at liberty to divulge details of the probe for fear
that it could jeopardise their investigation.
The FBI has been assisting police, including sharing intelligence and
Kuala Lumpur had also, on April 5, announced the appointment of an
independent "Investigator in Charge" to lead an investigating team,
which will include three groups.
They are an airworthiness group to look at issues such as maintenance
records, structures and systems; an operations group to examine, among
others, flight recorders, operations and meteorology; and, a medical
and human factors group to investigate areas of psychology and
Six days ago, the New Sunday Times front-paged a report that said
investigators had, over the last few weeks, sifted through hundreds of
hours of closed-circuit television footage, not only from cameras in
most corners of KLIA, but all the way back to a toll plaza 8.8km away,
which most passengers would have had to pass through to reach KLIA.
Videos were also taken from the stretch of road leading to the
Their movements were traced by the CCTVs right up to the time they
showed up at gate C1, in the West Zone of the airport's Satellite
Building, where the plane was parked.
It was also learnt that while Fariq and chief stewardess Goh Sock Lay,
45, communicated via the WhatsApp messenger application at 11.30pm,
pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, made his last contact through
the application at 7.45pm, some five hours before flying off.
"Experts said it was possible for a mobile phone to be connected to a
telecommunications tower at an altitude of 7,000 feet".
Just shows you how much 'experts' know. I regularly receive SMS
messages at 35,000 feet.
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