US says ‘new information’ may lead to expanded jet search

White House spokesman says US consulting with international partners about assets to deploy

Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 23:01

A new search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean as authorities try to determine what happened to a missing Malaysian airliner, the White House said tonight.

“It’s my understanding that based on some new information that‘s not necessarily conclusive - but new information - an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean,“ White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“And we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.“

Mr Carney did not specify the nature of the “new information.“

Mr Carney sidestepped a question as to whether the United States has confidence in the investigation being conducted by the Malaysian government.

“I just don‘t have an evaluation to make,“ he said. “What I can tell you is that we‘re working with the Malaysian government to try to find the plane; find out what happened to it for the sake of the families and, obviously, for the sake of knowing what caused the plane to disappear.“

The United States has been helping in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, including the deployment of US Navy vessels. It also has sent transportation safety board and federal aviation administration officials there.

“There are a number of possible scenarios that are being investigated as to what happened to the flight. And we are not in a position at this time to make conclusions about what happened, unfortunately. But we’re actively participating in the search,” Mr Carney told a regular news briefing.

“We‘re looking at information, pursuing possible leads, working within the investigation being led by the Malaysian government.“

US defence officials told Reuters the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd was en route to Strait of Malacca, west of the Malaysian peninsula, to continue the search for the missing jetliner, answering a request from the Malaysian government. The officials said they were unaware of any new evidence indicating where the plane might have crashed.

The Kidd had been searching the areas south of the Gulf of Thailand, along with the destroyer USS Pinckney. A US defence official noted that a Navy P-3 Orion aircraft had already searched the Strait of Malacca.

Earlier today, Malaysian authorities expanded their search for the missing Boeing 777 jet into the Andaman Sea and beyond after acknowledging it could have flown for several more hours after its last contact with the ground.

That scenario would make finding the plane a vastly more difficult task, and raises the possibility that searchers are currently looking in the wrong place for the aircraft and its 229 passengers and crew.

In the latest in a series of false leads, planes were sent to search an area where Chinese satellite images published on a Chinese government website reportedly showed three suspected floating objects off the southern tip of Vietnam.