Mystery of missing airliner solved?

April 02, 2014 09:50 am

La Grande woman claims she’s found the missing airplane

Sharon Cantrell said she knows where the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is.

And it isn’t off the coast of Australia. 

Instead, the La Grande resident said she believes the missing Boeing 777-200 crashed into the Andaman Sea off the northern coast of Sumatra. She said she reached her conclusion after spending days pouring over satellite imagery on the NASA website and while working with an online group of amateur sleuths via Facebook.

Cantrell said her tale began when a friend on Facebook received an email alert from, an Internet-based search site that uses crowdsourcing — and satellite imagery — to find missing objects across the globe.

“It was a thing put out by the Tomnod group. It was interesting to me that they had images that you could view,” Cantrell said.

From there, Cantrell said she linked up with four other women — in different parts of the U.S. and Australia — on the Facebook group to find the missing airliner. The group utilized all the information available from news reports and from online sources and began to methodically search. Cantrell said before long she was communicating with another member of her Facebook search group.

“We started discussing our theories and they lined up together,” she said.

Cantrell said she spent hours scanning satellite photos of probable flight paths of the jetliner. Media reports — including a March 12 United Press International story about an eyewitness account from an oil derrick worker in the area — helped her narrow down the search parameters. She said she and her Facebook comrade began to concentrate on satellite imagery from the northern coast of Sumatra and the Andaman Sea. Slowly, she said, she began to detect what she believed to be signs of a plane crash in the sea. 

“I didn’t find any images with the plane on it. I noticed differences in the bottom of the ocean, the shape,” she said.

According to a March article on the United Kingdom’s The Guardian website, more than 2 million people were actively looking for the missing aircraft as part of a Tomnod crowdsourcing effort.

Tomnod, operated by satellite firm DigitalGlobe, shifted several of its satellites over the last known position of the jetliner in the Gulf of Thailand, The Guardian reported.

The crowdsourcing effort works like this: a map is picked out for Tomnod users from the search area. Crowdsourcers are instructed to drop a pin if they detect any signs of wreckage.

Cantrell began to compare day to day satellite photos — March 8, March 9, etc. — of the area north of Sumatra and noticed some anomalies.

“I remembered that (the area) didn’t look like that when I looked before,” she said. “When I zoomed in, because of the way it was distorted, it took me a pretty good time to figure out what it was.”

Cantrell conceded she had her own doubts. At first.

“The first reports were they searched the area, the Andaman Sea, the whole Strait of Mecca. If they had just gone a little further east they would have been able to find it,” she said.

Cantrell said what she eventually decided she was looking at was a crater made on the shallow sea floor. She reached her conclusion by comparing satellite imagery over succeeding days. 

“I noticed a circular shape. I started to zoom into the white area. That’s when I was looking through the top edge and it hit me what it was. The plane was down in a crater and the water was thrown out because of the thrust (from impact),” she said.

Cantrell said she then pulled up satellite photos from March 9 — the day after the jet disappeared.

“That was the day I could clearly see the area. The crater is elongated,” she said.

The area, she said, is north of the Sumatra city of Banda Aceh and west of the Smith and Nicobar islands in the Andaman Sea.

“I mostly was using Tomnod (maps) and going back over to the NASA site to look at cloud structure. What we were doing was going back and forth between the two (satellite) maps to look at the cloud structure and what direction the sun was,” she said.

Once she concluded she had, indeed, found something that looked like pieces of the downed airliner, she said she began to make phone calls.

“I’ve reported my findings to the FBI. I’ve reported it to the U.S. Coast Guard. I then called Boeing. I’ve never heard anything back,” she said.

She also said she contacted Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office, a newspaper in Malaysia and CNN.

Despite the fact the official search for the plane is centered off the Australian coast, Cantrell said she believes in her research. She is confident, she said, about her conclusions.

“If you put it to percentages, I’m 1,000 percent sure,” she said.

Malaysia police: Jet mystery may never be solved 


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Malaysian police investigation into the pilots of the missing Malaysian jet might turn up nothing, the force’s chief said today, while the head of the international search effort also acknowledged that an air hunt to spot wreckage on the surface of the southern Indian Ocean was not certain of success.

The statements underscored the lack of knowledge authorities have about what happened on Flight 370 and where it may have ended, and point to a scenario that becomes more likely with every passing day — that the fate of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew might remain a mystery forever.

Police are investigating the pilots and crews for any evidence suggesting they may have hijacked or sabotaged the plane. The backgrounds of the passengers, two-thirds of whom were from China, have been checked by local and international investigators and nothing suspicious has been found.

— The Associated Press