Man on a mission to crack MH370 case
Blaine Gibson, 58, spent most of the past year searching for clues to the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Much like Fox Mulder, a fictional character in The X-Files television series who persistently hunts for the truth, the Seattle-based lawyer has gone to great lengths to find answers to the plane's disappearance.
He travelled to Myanmar to look for possible debris in the Andaman Sea, and to the Maldives to speak to those who allegedly saw a low-flying jet on March 8, 2014, the day the plane vanished.
He also visited Reunion Island, where a resident had found the only confirmed debris from MH370 last July - a part of the airplane's wing.
"It (MH370) has been a very interesting mystery and it has meant to me travelling with a good cause. I visit interesting places and, at the same time, do anything I can to bring answers for the families who still have no idea what happened after two years," he told The Straits Times.
He is now using his own funds from the sale of his childhood home to travel. He insists that he does not spend all that much pursuing the leads.
"Travel is what I love doing, that is what (my) money is for," he said.
The bachelor had been an avid adventurer long before the mystery of MH370, having joined historical quests to find out what happened to the Ark of the Covenant and to study the collapse of the Maya civilisation.
When news of the missing plane first broke on March 8, 2014, he said he was in his parents' home, which he had sold years after they died.
"I was looking through 45 years of boxes of memories while watching the story unfold on television. I was very moved and thought what if I had been on the plane, how would my parents have felt?"
MH370 is the first plane mystery that he has felt attached to.
He started joining discussions about the plane's whereabouts on Facebook and online forums early last year. The information he shared has been picked up by other parties interested in the search, such as independent website thehuntformh370.
When almost a year passed and there were still no answers, he flew to Malaysia to attend the first anniversary of the plane's disappearance.
The chance to speak to and connect with the families of some of the passengers and crew members inspired him to do more.
He went to Australia and spoke to professionals familiar with the search operation. An oceanographer told him debris could wash up on the shores of Mauritius, Madagascar or Mozambique.
"I had already been to Mauritius and have never been to Mozambique. I had this free time so I thought - why not visit the country and take a day or two to comb the beach shores," he said.
On February 27, he invited three others to look for possible debris on the Paluma sandbar, off the coast of Mozambique. The group included a boat captain and Suleman Valy, who runs a local beach hotel.
"They knew absolutely nothing about the plane, they asked me whether it crashed near there. That part of the world did not even know anything about it... and no one told them to be on the lookout for possible debris," he said.
When Suleman spotted a metre-long triangular fragment with the words "no step" that looked like a part of a plane, Gibson knew they had to hand the piece to the authorities to determine if it was from MH370.
He hopes that with the discovery, people will be more aware that they need to be mindful of possible debris on beaches and alert the authorities if they find anything.
Gibson is waiting for the authorities to confirm whether the plane debris, which has arrived in Malaysia for analysis, is part of MH370 before deciding on his next step. But he said he will most likely continue searching for answers.
Copyright: The Straits Times/ Asian News Network
Gibson (right) and Suleman with the plane fragment they found off the coast of Mozambique. The piece of debris is now in Malaysia for analysis. Photo: Blaine Alan Gibson/ ANN