Search for MH370 is taking place thousands of miles away in the wrong direction, insists oil rig worker notoriously fired for reporting he believed he saw jet 'on fire'
Mike McKay, 57, from New Zealand has spoken exclusively to MailOnline
He believes search is happening thousands of miles in the wrong direction
Official search is based on pings from what's believed to have been MH370
Relatives of Chinese passengers on MH370 arrived in Malaysia from Beijing last Friday to demand answers from Malaysia Airlines and government
They want to know why Government said fate of MH370 was an accident
By Richard Shears for MailOnline
Published: 11:06 GMT, 18 February 2015 | Updated: 13:15 GMT, 18 February 2015
An oil rig worker who was notoriously fired for saying he believed he saw MH370 'come down' today insisted he thinks the official search for the Malaysian jet is happening in the wrong place.
In his first detailed interview since he sent out an email to officials relaying what he thought might be the Boeing 777 aircraft, Mike McKay, 57, told MailOnline: 'Almost a year has passed, but I stand by what I saw.
'I've thought about it and thought about it, over and over and while I cannot say for certain that the burning object in the sky was definitely MH370, the timing fits in with when the Malaysian plane lost contact. I have been trying to disprove that what I saw was the aeroplane ever since.'
And so far he has failed to disprove it. Speaking at his Auckland home where he now sits out his days after losing his job as a result of sending out the email on his company computer on the rig off the south of Vietnam, Mr McKay said that everyone believed he had said with certainty that he saw MH370 crash in flames into the South China Sea.
'Unfortunately my words were misinterpreted. I was careful to say that I 'believed' I saw the aircraft come down. The email was never for public consumption.
Grieving: Mr McKay spoke to MailOnline as a group of relatives of Chinese passengers arrived in Malaysia from Beijing on February 12 to demand answers from Malaysia Airlines and the government
Mr McKay said he has spent many months pondering what he had seen - and remains unmoved in his opinion that if he had observed a burning plane it must have gone down in the South China Sea
'And if it was the plane that has been missing for so long, then the search in the southern Indian Ocean is clearly in the wrong place.'
Mr McKay was speaking after a group of relatives of Chinese passengers who were on the plane arrived in Malaysia from Beijing to demand answers from Malaysia Airlines and the government.
Among their demands was an answer to why the Malaysian government had announced recently that the fate of MH370 was an accident.
Mr McKay told MailOnline he was in no position to say what had caused the object to burst into flames, but added: 'If it was MH370 I cannot imagine how it could have continued flying. It could only have come down in the South China Sea.'
He had gone to bed on the oil rig Songa Mercur, located off the coast of the Vietnamese town of Vung Tau, at his usual time of around 7pm.
'I got up at around midnight Vietnam Time, which is one hour ahead of Malaysian time, and wandered around to an area at the back as usual for a cigarette and a coffee. It was a beautiful night with good visibility because it had been raining, which always tends to clear the air.
'It would have been some time after 1am (Malaysian Time) that I saw a sudden glow of fire above the horizon, which caught my immediate attention, although, of course I could not have known whether it was definitely an aircraft or not.'
Mr McKay said he took no immediate action but when he learned the following day that MH370 was missing - when it should have flown on across southern Vietnam towards Beijing - he tried in vain to contact Malaysian and Vietnamese officials.
Video released to explain the search efforts for flight MH370
Sighting: Mike McKay had gone to bed on the oil rig Songa Mercur (pictured), located off the coast of the Vietnamese town of Vung Tau, on the evening of March 7 last year at his usual time of around 7pm
On March 12 - three days after his sighting - he sent out an email to Vietnamese officials declaring: 'I believe I saw the Malaysian Airlines plane come down. The timing is right.'
He described where he was writing from and gave his latitude and longitude bearings. He then added: 'I observed (the plane?) burning at high altitude on a compass bearing of 265 degrees to 275 degrees from our surface location.'
He went on: 'While I observed the burning (plane) it appeared to be in ONE piece…
'From when I first saw the burning (plane) until the flames went out (still at high altitude) was 10-15 seconds. There was no lateral movement, so it was either coming toward our location, stationary (falling) or going away from our location.'
The general position of the object, he said, was south west of the normal flight paths of aircraft he and his co-workers saw every day and at a lower altitude than the normal flight paths.
Mr McKay, who has worked in the oil and gas exploration industry for more than 30 years, said that since he was 'kicked off' the rig after his email went public and the computers became overloaded he has spent many months pondering what he had seen - and remains unmoved in his opinion that if he had observed a burning plane it must have gone down in the South China Sea.
Visualisation of MH370 search area in Indian Ocean
Evidence: Mr Wen Wancheng, whose son was on the flight, said the Malaysian government had no facts or legal basis for announcing what had happened to the plane
'There's a lot about this whole affair that niggles me and I've considered numerous questions as to whether there has been a cover up or there has been a show of inefficiency. I learned that Malaysian military had picked up a possible signal over Penang (an island off the west coast of the Malaysian peninsular) but didn't report it immediately.
'Of course, if it was from the plane, it means that contrary to my belief that it had come down in the South China Sea it had managed to turn around and fly back across the mainland.
'But what has also annoyed me is the fact that the Vietnamese searchers were stood-down after performing one flight based on my observation before the whole search effort was moved to the other side of the peninsular.'
Asked if he had a theory about what might have caused the fire, he said an incident that came to mind was an explosion in a similar aircraft that was on a runway at Cairo airport in 2011, which was caused by oxygen escaping from disabled tubing and catching fire.
Mr McKay hasn't worked since losing his job. 'There's nothing out there. The price of oil has dropped below break-even in many places, so a lot of the upcoming projects have been shelved.'
Because he did not want to become the centre of that circus, he laid low - but that then placed him at the centre of another controversy.
Bloggers questioned why he had 'gone into hiding' while others suggested he did not even exist and that his entire email was a hoax.
The official search, headed by Australia, is based on satellite readings which picked up pings from what was believed to have been MH370
Accident: Relatives of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 held placards during a protest demanding to know why the Malaysian government had announced recently that the fate of MH370 was an accident
He ignored the international controversy and went to a police station in Auckland where he filed a report about his sighting. Police have agreed that he was treated as a credible witness.
In Malaysia on Friday, a group of mainly Chinese relatives have arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport wearing red T-shirts bearing the slogan 'Pray for MH370'.
They said they had come for answers and unfurled banners and placards, one of which read: 'Today it's us, tomorrow it could be you.'
Kelly Wen, wife of one of the 239 passengers and crew on board the aircraft which lost contact on March 8, said the group had three main purposes for making the journey.
They wanted to have a meeting with Malaysia Airlines officials and glean the latest information.
They also wanted to know on what grounds the Department of Civil Aviation had described the disappearance as 'an accident'.
And finally, said Ms Wen, they wanted to discuss financial matters with the airline in the hope that families who were facing difficulties could be helped.
Mr Wen Wancheng, whose son was on the flight, said the Malaysian government had no facts or legal basis for announcing what had happened to the plane
'There are no facts or legal basis for Malaysia to announce that Malaysia Airlines MH370 was an accident and that all passengers were killed..It doesn't have any legal standing,' he told Reuters.
Video reveals nauseating sea swell during MH370 search
'It's been nearly a year since the flight went missing and the families are suffering financial problems because we've been travelling to various places - including to here and to the family assistance centre in Beijing and we've spent a lot of money.
'The families are facing financial issues as much as emotional ones. We want Malaysia Airlines and Boeing to provide immediate payments to help us with these issues.
'All the relatives of the passengers have been trying to find out what happened to them.'
Mr McKay's observation might be a clue - or might not, for he has only been able to relate what he saw.
But many Chinese relatives continue to insist that there has been a cover-up for unknown reasons as the fruitless search goes on in the southern Indian Ocean.
The Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, which, headed by Australia, is conducting the search says that so far the underwater operations have scoured 22,000 square kilometres of the ocean bed, equalling around 36 per cent of the priority search area.
It is estimated that if there are no delays with vessels, equipment or from the weather, the underwater search will be mostly finished some time in May.
The 'Go Phoenix' supply ship has remained in the area, 2,500km to the south west of Perth, western Australia, but three vessels involved in the underwater search have this week suspended operations to return to port in Australia for scheduled visits.
Despite months of searching in the area, there have been no sightings of debris on the surface or any clues that the aircraft is lying on the sea bed in region covered so far.