Four Indonesian fishermen today said they had witnessed the final minutes of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which disappeared en route to China five years ago.
One of them, Rusli Kusmin, said they had seen the plane descending as if about to land at the Straits of Melaka while they were out fishing on the morning of March 8, 2014.
Rusli, who is in his 30s, claimed his boat had been about 2km away from where the plane hit the water.
“The plane came from the north, moving towards the south,” he said at a press conference organised by a consumer group. “There was no explosion, nor were there any loud engine noises.
Rusli Kusmin explaining how the plane had gone down. With him is the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam’s Indonesia coordinator, Wagirin Jamal.
“As it landed, there was thick black smoke all around with the smell of acid in the air. It resembled a kite, leaning from left to right.”
Rusli added that he and his three fishing crew, nicknamed Eri, Beko and Kadapi, had seen the plane at about 7.30am that day.
However, when they rushed to the scene, the plane had already sunk.
Rusli and the three others also swore by the Quran to show they were serious in their claim.
Rusli said they had searched the area for two days but saw no debris or bodies. “Just black smoke and a strong acidic stench.”
As their boats were not furnished with high-technology equipment, he said, they could only record the coordinates through the onboard GPS system which he claimed had shown an image of the aircraft beneath the water.
When asked why he was only making it public now, Rusli said they had notified Malaysian and Indonesian authorities upon returning to the mainland. However, he did not identify the individuals through whom they had contacted the authorities.
He said several people had then sought them out, even promising them rewards. However, he claimed they had milked them for information and left him and his friends “humiliated”.
Because of this, he said, they decided to withdraw from public view. They only emerged after being persuaded to do so by the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa).
Cassa president Jacob George said he had met Rusli in 2017. George, who has been commenting about the plane’s mysterious disappearance on his blog since March 9, 2014, said he visited Rusli in Pengkalan Susu, Indonesia, to look into his account.
He said Cassa had been collaborating with retired security officials, aviation experts, media and members of civil society from Canada, the US, Australia, the UK, Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia to trace the plane.
George Jacob (second from left), with Rusli Kusmin beside him.
“We have been monitoring this very closely. We found that the narratives given until now don’t make sense.”
He claimed that that prior to arranging the press conference today, he had received death threats from “various parties” warning him about challenging the common narrative put forth that the pilot of MH370 might have been suicidal.
But George, who said he had many friends on the flight, said the pilot was also one of them.
“He was not that kind of person.
“We have a reputation and we would not come out and say something we do not trust,” he added.
He urged the authorities to consider a third search in the area, following two failed searches in the South Indian Ocean.
He said Western experts stood to benefit from the existing narrative of the tragedy, as many of them were writing books and might be getting consultation fees for their knowledge on the plane crash for movie-documentaries.
He added that MH370 was a Malaysian plane with a Malaysian crew, therefore the narrative should be brought back to Malaysia.
“I urge Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the relevant ministries to take Rusli’s eyewitness account into consideration. Go there and use the high-tech equipment that we have to investigate if there’s anything there,” he said.
MH370 disappeared from radar with 239 people on board, becoming one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
A deep-sea search mission carried out for almost three years by Australia, China and Malaysia to locate the missing aircraft in the Indian Ocean covered 120,000 sq km. The search was called off after futile attempts at locating the debris of the plane. – FMT