Blaine Gibson, the self-styled wreck hunter searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, “firmly” believes the plane will be found — just as a new private search is about to begin in the southern Indian Ocean.
Mr Gibson has spent much of his spare time over the past three years searching for debris from the missing plane, on remote Indian Ocean islands, the east coast of Africa and even in Australia.
What he has found — and indeed not found — may help solve the mystery, almost four years after MH370 disappeared from radar on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Mr Gibson, along with local islanders and fishermen, have together found at least 20 pieces of wreckage confirmed or deemed likely to have come from the missing plane, among them the right wing flaperon, right aft flap and right outboard flap.
It was this debris that helped the CSIRO pinpoint a new search zone around 35 degrees south — just north of the area already searched — by mapping each piece of debris and examining Indian Ocean currents to track where they had come from.
Oceanographers believe that if the plane had crashed further south debris should have come to Australia.
But Mr Gibson, who searched parts of the West Australian coast and in Tasmania, says he never found a thing.
“I looked on the beaches of Western Australia — found nothing,” he said.
“I searched for debris in Tasmania. I met people who had searched for debris in Tasmania, and none of us found anything.
“And the fact no debris has in all this time been found in Australia and Tasmania [yet many pieces were found in Africa] prove the crash site is north of 36 degrees south — north of where they were previously looking.”
Most of what Mr Gibson has found in Madagascar, Mozambique, and on islands off the east coast of Africa, have been personal items — bags, shoes, bits of clothing — none of which have been confirmed as coming from Flight MH370.
But he says some of them match bags and shoes seen on CCTV footage of people when they boarded the plane in Kuala Lumpur.
“None of them can be positively traced to the plane. There are no luggage tags, passports, ID cards, anything like that. However, some of them match pictures from the CCTV video of passengers getting on the plane,” Mr Gibson said.
The personal effects were long ago handed to Malaysian authorities who have never confirmed any as being from MH370.
But an Australian group representing the families of air crash victims has uploaded photographs of personal belongings found since 2015 in Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius and other islands, in the hope that relatives will recognise them.
‘A very significant piece of debris’
Mr Gibson says the item that has caused him the most heartbreak was a television monitor he found on Riake Beach in Madagascar, that had clearly come from the back of an airplane seat.
“That is the one that touched me the most. That is the one that brought tears to my eyes and broke my heart. Because that’s the case around the TV screen on the back of the seat in front of you … that everyone sees, that everyone recognises.”
Mr Gibson says the TV monitor — if it was from MH370 — is a “very significant piece of debris” because it disproves the theory that the plane glided intact into the ocean.
“It proves that the fuselage, the main cabin, shattered on impact. The fuselage is not as some people claim intact under water. It shattered on impact.
“Many pieces of it have been recovered, but the most graphic, the most emotional, is that monitor case from the back of the seat in front.”
Despite his years of searching for answers, Mr Gibson says he does not have a personal theory as to why flight MH370 disappeared.
But he says the range and amount of debris recovered disproves the theory that the pilot deliberately crashed the plane in a murder suicide.
“The original theory to explain away Malaysia 370 forever was the ‘pilot suicide controlled glide ditching theory’ — that somehow the pilot decided that he was going to kill everybody on the plane, ditch the plane, sink it intact and create a big mystery,” he said.
“I can say categorically, absolutely, that did not happen. That theory is simply disproven by the evidence: one, we know that the main cabin, the fuselage is not intact under water. It shattered on impact.
“Also, the wing flap … was retracted. It was not deployed. It has been examined by Boeing, examined by the ATSB, and they have concluded that it was in a retracted mid-flight position, not in a landing position.
“So there was no controlled glide, intact ditching. That did not happen.”
New search to commence off WA coast
A private Texas based company Ocean Infinity will begin a 90 day search of the proposed new search zone, beginning as early as tomorrow.
It will use eight state-of-the-art underwater drones to scan the ocean floor, which in areas is almost 5km deep
Its search ship Seabed Constructor is expected to arrive at the search zone later today.
If it finds the wreck of MH370 — and/or its black boxes — Ocean Infinity will receive between $US20 and $US70 million from the Malaysian Government. If it fails it will receive no payment at all.
“I believe firmly that this mystery will be solved,” Mr Gibson said.
“That we will eventually know what happened on the plane. That may come very soon.
“If the Inmarsat data and its interpretation are correct I’m confident that Ocean Infinity will find it.”
Until then Mr Gibson is keeping his eyes and ears open to the discovery of more debris.
And he is continuing efforts — with the Australian Aircrash Support Group — to find family who recognise some of the personal effects as those of their missing loved ones.