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U.S. Navy Dispatches Ship To Help In Search For Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CBSNewYork/AP) — There is still no sign of the Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people that disappeared from radar Friday night over the South China Sea.

Two-thirds of the jet’s passengers were from China. The rest were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

The plane was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, the airline said. The manifest included 152 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India, three from the U.S., and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

Of the three Americans on board, one has been identified as 51-year-old Philip Wood, CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported.

An Austin, Texas, technology company known as Freescale Semiconductor also confirmed that it had 20 employees from Malaysia and China on the flight.

Vietnamese air force planes on Saturday spotted two large oil slicks close to where the Boeing 777 went missing, the first sign that the aircraft bound for Beijing possibly crashed.

The oil slicks were spotted late Saturday local time off the southern tip of Vietnam and were each between 10 kilometers (6 miles) and 15 kilometers (9 miles) long, the Vietnamese government said in a statement. There was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, but the statement said they were consistent with the kinds that would be produced by the two fuel tanks of a crashed jetliner.

The most dangerous parts of a flight are takeoff and landing. Rarely do incidents happen when a plane is cruising seven miles above the earth.

So the plane’s disappearance has led aviation experts to assume that whatever happened was quick and left the pilots no time to place a distress call.

It’s a mystery that may not be solved until they find flight MH370’s black boxes, according to Dr. Vernon Gross, a former member of the NTSB and expert on aviation safety and security.

“This is the most mysterious one of all my life because we have absolutely no clue and no evidence and no wreckage. All we have is cessation of contact,” Gross told 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten.

Gross said there’s only two possible causes: a catastrophic failure of the 777 – which he said is unlikely – or a terrorist attack.

Contributing to fears of foul play was word from foreign ministries in Italy and Austria that the names of two citizens listed on the flight’s manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that an Italian man whose name was listed as being aboard is traveling in Thailand and was not aboard the plane.

A foreign ministry functionary, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Italian reports that Luigi Maraldi had reported his passport stolen last August.

Italian news agency ANSA said Maraldi called home after hearing reports that an Italian with his name was aboard the plane.

Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss confirmed that a name listed on the manifest matches an Austrian passport reported stolen two years ago in Thailand. Weiss would not confirm the identity.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, who is the former head and current member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the possibility of terrorism has not been ruled out, 1010 WINS reported.

At Beijing’s airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a nearby hotel to await further information. A woman aboard a shuttle bus wept, saying on a mobile phone, “They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good.”

Passengers’ loved ones were escorted into a private area at the hotel, but reporters were kept away. A man in a gray hooded sweatshirt later stormed out complaining about a lack of information. The man, who said he was a Beijing resident but declined to give his name, said he was anxious because his mother was aboard the flight with a tourist group.

“We have been waiting for hours and there is still no verification,” he said.

Many are angered that it took hours until the airline even said the plane wasn’t just delayed, CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported.

Malaysia had dispatched 15 planes and nine ships to the area, Najib said.

The U.S. Navy was sending a warship and a surveillance plane, while Singapore said it would send a submarine and a plane. China and Vietnam also sent aircraft to help in the search.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Saturday that it has a team of investigators en route to Asia to assist in the investigation into the flight’s disappearance.

Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed last July in San Francisco, killing three passengers, all teenagers from China.

The 53-year-old pilot of Flight MH370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying for the airline since 1981. The first officer, 27-year-old Fariq Hamid, has about 2,800 hours of experience and has flown for the airline since 2007, Malaysia Airlines said.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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