Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid tried to make a call with his cellphone after the plane was diverted from its scheduled route, Malaysia’s New Straits Times reported investigative sources as saying on Saturday.
The newspaper cited unidentified sources as saying the attempted call from Fariq Abdul Hamid’s phone was picked up by a cellphone tower as the plane was about 200 nautical miles northwest of the west coast state of Penang. That was around where military radar made its last sighting of the missing jet at 2:15 a.m. local time on March 8.
“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 New Straits Times cited a source as saying.
The publication quoted Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as saying that the report needed to be verified.
However, Hishammuddin Hussein appeared to cast doubt on the report by saying: “If this did happen, we would have known about it earlier.”
The New Straits Times cited separate investigative sources as saying that a signal had been picked up from Fariq Abdul Hamid’s cellphone, but that it could have resulted from the device being switched on rather than being used to make a call.
Malaysia is focusing its criminal investigation on the cabin crew and the pilots of the plane – 53-year-old captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and 27-year old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid – after clearing all 227 passengers of any involvement, police have said.
Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge of both the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation navigation switched off the plane’s communications systems before diverting it thousands of miles off its scheduled course.
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