The hunt for the missing Malaysian Air jetliner intensified as daylight bathed a search area off the Vietnamese coast Sunday morning.
Ships and aircraft from at least six countries are looking for the Boeing 777 jumbo jet, which carried 239 passengers and crew on a flight bound for Beijing from Kaula Lumpur. An air search over the South China Sea picked up Sunday morning after being halted at nightfall Saturday. The effort is concentrated off the southern tip of Vietnam, where two large oil slicks were spotted, but no wreckage has yet been found.
Three Americans were aboard. Austin TV station KVUE reported one of the missing is Philip Wood, 50, from Roanoke, TX. A LinkedIn profile says he is an IBM executive in Malaysia. His mother, Sandra Wood, last saw him a week ago.
"You want to know how it feels to lose a son at the age of 50? It's devastating,'' she said.
The mother of one of the passengers from the missing Malaysian plane speaks about the grief of losing her 50-year-old son. VPC
Freescale Semiconductor, an Austin-based tech company, said 20 employees from China and Malaysia were on board. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragic event," said CEO Gregg Lowe.
Vietnamese Air Force planes Saturday located the oil slicks, each 6 to 9 miles long, about 80 miles south of the island of Tho Chu in the Gulf of Thailand. They're consistent with those from a downed jetliner, the Vietnamese government said on its website.
The Vietnamese government spotted two oil slicks that they believe to belong to the missing Malaysian plane carrying 239 passengers, two of whom had stolen passports. VPC
Malaysia sent nine planes and 15 ships to search waters between Malaysia and Vietnam. The Philippines dispatched three Navy ships and a surveillance plane. China sent two ships. A U.S. Navy destroyer equipped with two helicopers is also assisting the operation.
What caused the plane to disappear remains a mystery. Two names on the flight manifest matched the names on stolen European passports.
The Italian Foreign Ministry said Luigi Maraldi, an Italian national, was traveling in Thailand and not on the flight. He contacted his parents after the flight went missing. Maraldi reported a stolen passport last August. Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss said a name listed on the manifest matches an Austrian passport stolen in 2012. Weiss would not confirm the identity.
Asked whether terrorism was suspected, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said authorities were "looking at all possibilities, but it is too early to make any conclusive remarks."
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The plane had been flying for about two hours when Subang Air Traffic Control lost contact at 2:40 a.m. local time (1:40 p.m. Friday ET). It was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. local time. The last radar signal was received as the aircraft approached Vietnam airspace near the Ca Mau province.
The 11-year-old plane was last inspected 10 days ago and found in "proper condition," airline officials said. The lack of a distress signal from the pilots "suggests something very sudden and very violent happened," said William Waldock, who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
Weather was not believed to be a factor. Light rain and snow was falling over South and Central China, but it was well below the aircraft's last known, 35,000-foot altitude.
Relatives waited anxiously at Beijing International Airport on Saturday after a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 people to China mysteriously vanished and was presumed lost. Video provided by AFP Newslook
The twin-engine jet was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew. Besides Wood, the other Americans on the manifest are Nicole Meng, 4; and Yan Zhang, 2.
Passengers are from 14 countries, including 153 from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India, three from France, two each from New Zealand, Ukraine and Canada and sole travelers from Russia, Italy, Taiwan, Austria and the Netherlands.
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Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Juahari Yahya said that the company is working with emergency responders. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members," Yahya said.
At Beijing's airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a hotel to wait for further information.
The flight had seasoned pilots, according to the airline. Capt. Zaharie Ahman Shah, 53, of Malaysia has 18,365 flight hours and has been with the airline since 1981. First Officer Fariq Ab.Hamid, 27, also of Malaysia, has 2,763 flight hours .
The Boeing 777 has a strong safety record. Since its debut in 1995,it's been in only two major accidents.
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The worst was last July, when an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200 with 291 passengers and 16 crew crashed on landing at San Francisco International Airport. Three passengers were killed - one by a fire rescue truck. There were serious injuries to 48 passengers. Pilot error is being investigated.
The search for the Malaysia Air flight comes amid one of the safer stretches of commercial aviation. In the U.S., 2012 was the industry's safest since the dawn of the jet age. The last major airline disaster was in 2009, when an Air France Airbus 330 crashed during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 216 passengers and 12 crew.
Malaysia Air's last air fatalities were in 1995, when a flight crashed near Tawau, Malaysia, killing 34.
Thomas Maresca reported from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard in London, Melanie Eversley in New York, Donna Leinwand Leger in Washington, Allison Gray and Doyle Rice in McLean, Va., Michael Winter in Oakland; the Associated Press.