Hasty Words With Lasting Consequences – a Look Back at MH 370’s Characters

March 7, 2024 / 4 Comments

Everybody makes mistakes. But of all the hasty words that have been uttered that turned out not to be the best, a small phrase Malaysia’s then Prime Minister Najib Razak used in 2014 when speaking to reporters about the missing flight Malaysia 370, has had the most impact on the still unsolved mystery.

MH 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared 10 years ago on March 8th. While there is still no official determination of what caused the Boeing 777 to veer off its path and head into the South Indian Ocean killing 239 people, thanks to Razak lots of people think they know what happened: The captain committed murder by suicide by hijacking the plane and flying it until it ran out of fuel crashing into the sea.

There’s only one problem. There is not a scrap of evidence to support this scenario which got its start at the top; the Prime Minister.

One week after the plane disappeared, when searchers were still looking for the flight along the path to China, Rajak told reporters that the airplane’s transponder  – the device that communicates the jet’s identity, altitude and speed to air traffic controllers – stopped working. Had he used those words, he would have made a fact-based statement. But that is not what he said.

He said that the transponder had been “intentionally” turned off, though there was no way of knowing “intention.” The transponder stopped functioning but it could have been due to any number of reasons, as I make clear in my bestselling book, The Crash Detectives. The assembled reporters took the Prime Minister at his word. Hungry for any scrap of new information to advance the story, they seized on this statement as evidence that something nefarious was afoot.

These hasty words spoke to the bias among many Westerners that Muslims are just one bad day away from committing mass murder. Razak’s statement initiated the pilot murder-suicide theory.

I have a fact-based scenario about what is likely to have happened. If you are unfamiliar with it, click here for background, or read my book.

It is no surprise that an air disaster attracts the attention of politicians. Razak was hardly the first one to shove qualified experts off to the side when microphones and television cameras beckoned. But the media spotlight is a magnet for many kinds of opportunists.

Sarah Bajc, whose partner Philip Wood died on MH 370, still remembers her encounter with Darlene Tipton about three weeks after the plane disappeared. The former executive with Fox Cable network reached out to Bajc with a warning and an offer. Because she was not married to Wood, Tipton warned her she may not receive any compensation from the airline. Tipton offered her help. She would launch a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the families of  MH 370 victims.

Tipton’s email read in part, “Many lawyers would say that you do not qualify as a family member just because you had a relationship with Philip,” the email from Tipton said. ” You run a very real chance of being cut out of everything.  Under my, let’s say “project”,  I can be much more lenient toward people who will receive funds as an immediate member of any passegnger (sic) on flight #370.”

At first Bajc didn’t know what to make of it. The email came from the Fox company email account and Tipton’s title, Vice President, Standards and Practices seemed to legitimize her. But the whole thing smelled like a scam.  By the time Tipton’s husband Ken posted a video of himself on YouTube (since removed) claiming that the real story of the missing airliner came to him in a vision, Bajc had already stopped communicating with Darlene sending copies of the emails to Fox with a polite version of “WTF?”

Unsurprisingly, Darlene Tipton was fired by Fox days later, about which you can read more here. Chastized but not changed, by 2018 the couple was fundraising once again, this time looking for $27 million to make a movie about Malaysia 370, According to news.com.au the feature-length film would reveal that the airliner had been taken to cover up organ harvesting by the Chinese government.

Reached by email earlier this week, Ken and Darlene Tipton declined to be interviewed but he insisted, as Darlene has in the past, that they were only trying to help the MH370 families. In his reply, Ken Tipton added that his wife’s former employer had proof that the disappearance of MH 370  was tied to the bribery, embezzlement and money laundering case in Malaysia known as the 1MDB scandal, which broke the year after Flight 370. And to bring the story full circle, among those convicted and serving time for those crimes was none other than former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In a career writing about air disasters, I’ve come across all kinds of people; crackpots, politicians and profiteers among them to be sure but also survivors like Bajc, now married and living her best life in Panama, running Camaroncito Eco Resort and Beach, with her husband, Ernesto.

Of her encounters with the Tiptons, Bajc said “Parasites and vultures exist in every time, in every society.” But having found love again, she gives little thought to them. “Life”, she tells me, “is too much of a gift to waste.”

More people will die in traffic crashes in one year in the United States than in the history of American commercial aviation. But it is the air disaster from which we cannot look away. Here is where we find the drama. And here, by chance or by choice, people become enmeshed in a most peculiar world. There are more stories here than you can imagine.

Fox Cable Executive Fired for Emails Sent to Malaysia 370 Family Member


Categories: Flying Lessons

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