Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

'Best lead' in plane search: 2 objects seen in sea

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Search planes flew out of Australia today to scan rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth for objects that may be from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

In what one official called the "best lead" of the nearly 2-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two large objects floating off the southwest coast of Australia about halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

The area in the southern Indian Ocean is so remote that it takes aircraft longer to fly there — four hours — than it allows for the search.

The discovery raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

A search Thursday by four planes in clouds and rain found nothing, and Australian authorities said early today that efforts were resuming with the first of five aircraft — a Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion — leaving at dawn for the area about 1,400 miles from western Australia.

A civilian Gulfstream jet and a second Orion were expected to depart later in the morning, and a third Orion was due to fly out in the early afternoon to search more than 13,000 square miles of ocean.

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft was scheduled to leave the base later in the afternoon, but like the other planes, it will have enough fuel for only a few hours before returning to Perth.

Warren Truss, Australia's acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is overseas, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that weather conditions in the area were poor and may get worse.

"And so, clearly, this is a very, very difficult and challenging search. Weather conditions are not particularly good and risk that they may deteriorate," Truss said.

John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency response division, cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although at nearly 80 feet, the larger of the two objects is longer than a container.

"This is a lead. It's probably the best lead we have right now," Young said.

Truss said officials are working to get more satellite images and stronger resolution to help searchers get a better sense of where the objects are and how far they've shifted since the initial images were captured.

"They will have moved because of tides and wind and the like, so the search area is quite broad," Truss said, adding that marker buoys were dropped to help get a better understanding of what drift is likely to have occurred.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used searchlights after dark to look for debris. It will continue the search today, Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners told reporters in Oslo.

The ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Three Chinese naval ships also were heading to the area. China's search and rescue agency also said it had asked the country's Oceanic Administration to dispatch the icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon), which was in Perth after a voyage to Antarctica in January, to take part in the search.

The development marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for what the relatives say has been the slow release of timely information. While they still hope their loved ones will be found, they acknowledged that news of the satellite images could mean the plane fell into the sea.

"If it turns out that it is truly MH370, then we will accept that fate," said Selamat Bin Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger. The jet carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.

Malaysian officials met with the relatives Thursday night in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it "apparent that Malaysia's military is incapable of protecting its own airspace."

He believes "that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope."

DigitalGlobe, a company in Longmont, Colo., said it provided the satellite images to Australian officials. The images were taken March 16, but Australian Air Commodore John McGarry said it took time to analyze them.

"The task of analyzing imagery is quite difficult. It requires drawing down frames and going through frame by frame," he said.

The hunt has encountered false leads previously. But this is the first time possible objects have been spotted since the search area was massively expanded into two corridors, one stretching from northern Thailand into Central Asia and the other from the Strait of Malacca to the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made it clear Thursday that although international search efforts are continuing both on land and at sea in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean.

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

Comments
FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

TALLAHASSEE — The parent company of Florida utility giant Florida Power & Light announced Monday that it will buy the largest electricity producer in Northwest Florida, Gulf Power, in a $6.4 billion deal.Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy Inc. said in a...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Rain can’t stop hundreds of Lightning fans from watching Game 6

Rain can’t stop hundreds of Lightning fans from watching Game 6

TAMPA — If the Tampa Bay Lightning can overcome a 2-game deficit to the Washington Capitals and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference final, then Deborah Schmeltzer can definitely drive across the Howard Frankland Bridge through a driving rainsto...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

WASHINGTON — Interesting how things work out in the world of hockey.Back in 2012, the first NHL team to ever interview Jon Cooper for a head coaching job was actually the Washington Capitals. The Caps general manager at the time was George McPh...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

WASHINGTON — It's incredible. Unbelievable, really. Maybe the best sports story in this country and the sport of hockey since 1980's Miracle on Ice.And, as a side note, if the Lightning reaches the Stanley Cup final, everyone in the country out...
Updated: 2 hours ago
One of Ybor City’s most historic blocks about to see construction of four-story boutique hotel

One of Ybor City’s most historic blocks about to see construction of four-story boutique hotel

TAMPA — Developers are poised to launch construction this week on one of Ybor City’s biggest new projects in years — a four-story, $50 million boutique hotel being created by a Chicago company that seeks out neighborhoods rich in color and character....
Updated: 2 hours ago
State softball: Admiral Farragut happy to be in title game this time around

State softball: Admiral Farragut happy to be in title game this time around

VERO BEACH — All season, Admiral Farragut has focused on two things:Believe in each other.Commit to the process.Well, it all paid off in a big way Monday in the Class 3A state semifinals at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.Alyssa Rano hit a two-run ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Man recalls beating from Hernando deputies in federal excessive force trial

Man recalls beating from Hernando deputies in federal excessive force trial

TAMPA — The allegations at the core of Michael Bratt’s lawsuit against three Hernando County deputies have been repeated in court papers for eight years since his violent arrest.But on Monday, a federal jury in Tampa heard Bratt describe in his own w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High court sides with businesses over workers

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that businesses can prohibit their workers from banding together in disputes over pay and conditions in the workplace, a decision that affects an estimated 25 million non-unionized employees. With the...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Less than one year after historic flooding, Alafia River spills its banks again

Less than one year after historic flooding, Alafia River spills its banks again

LITHIA — Frank Rodriguez was still several hundred yards from his house Monday when he pulled his SUV to the side of the road and changed into a pair of beach shoes.Ahead of him, the way home along River Drive was submerged. He was spared a wade thro...
Updated: 3 hours ago