ShareThis Page

Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight

| Sunday, March 9, 2014, 7:54 p.m.
Family members of passengers aboard a missing plane cry at a hotel in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Sunday, March 9, 2014. Military radar indicates that the missing Boeing 777 jet may have turned back before vanishing, Malaysia's air force chief said Sunday as authorities were investigating up to four passengers with suspicious identifications.
Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik applies the final touches to a sand art sculpture he created wishing for the well being of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, on a beach in Puri, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew went missing in area near the South China Sea on Saturday as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and was presumed to have crashed.
A dejected Chinese relative of a passenger aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, center, stands at a hallway of a hotel prepared for relatives or friends of passengers in Beijing, China Sunday, March 9, 2014. Planes and ships from across Asia resumed to the hunt Sunday for a Malaysian jetliner missing with 239 people on board for more than 24 hours, while Malaysian aviation authorities investigated how two passengers were apparently able to get on the aircraft using stolen passports.
The Singaporean submarine support and rescue vessel, MV Swift Rescue, is prepared before it departs to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in Singapore, in this March 9, 2014 handout picture.
Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane are leaving a hotel for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane to apply for passport in Beijing, China Sunday, March 9, 2014. Planes and ships from across Asia resumed the hunt Sunday for a Malaysian jetliner missing with 239 people on board for more than 24 hours, while Malaysian aviation authorities investigated how two passengers were apparently able to get on the aircraft using stolen passports.

A South Park engineer is among the 239 people missing on the Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished over the ocean, her employer said on Sunday.

Mei Ling Chng, a senior process engineer at Flexsys America LP in Monongahela, is confirmed to have been on Flight MH370, company spokeswoman Tracy Kilgore said. Kilgore represents Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical Co., the parent organization of Flexsys.

“All of us at Eastman are deeply shocked (and) saddened by this, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families of those on the flight and especially to the family of our friend and co-worker,” Kilgore said.

The Beijing-bound flight originated in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and disappeared from radar on Saturday. The State Department reported that three Americans were on the flight. Its whereabouts remain under investigation by Asian and American authorities.

Valerie Shafer, who sold Chng her home in South Park in October, said Chng appeared to have been a very bright and successful young woman in her late 20s or early 30s who had risen in her field and traveled often for her job.

Shafer said Chng apparently was not married.

“I can tell you as the mother of a daughter that I was proud of her for accomplishing so much,” Shafer said. “Who knows what she could have accomplished in the long term?”

Neighbors said they didn't see Chng much. Joe McClune said he hadn't seen any other family at the home; a light was on, but no one answered the door at her house on Sunday evening.

“She just moved in a couple months ago, and then the weather got bad, so nobody's had the chance to meet her or talk to her,” said neighbor Nina Puccio, 50. “It's a shame; you hope to God she wasn't on that flight, but now it's looking more and more like she was.”

A man at the Kuala Lumpur airport who said he was Chng's uncle told The New York Times that his niece was on her way to the United States via Beijing.

Chng's LinkedIn page says she attended a university in Malaysia.

Kilgore said Chng went to work for the chemical company Solutia in Malaysia in 2005. She transferred to Monongahela in 2010.

“She is a process engineer whose main responsibilities include chemical process optimization and new process development,” Kilgore said. “She is remembered fondly by her co-workers as being ... pleasant and happy, as well as well respected.”

Akron-based Flexsys makes chemicals for rubber processing and develops additives for other chemical uses, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Flexsys and Solutia are subsidiaries of Eastman.

Door discovered

Vietnamese aircraft pilots spotted what they suspect was one of the doors of the missing Boeing 777, while troubling questions emerged about how two passengers managed to board the ill-fated aircraft with stolen passports.

Interpol confirmed it knew about the stolen passports but said no authorities checked its vast databases on stolen documents before the jetliner departed.

Warning “only a handful of countries” routinely make such checks, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble chided authorities for “waiting for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates.”

The flight's final minutes before its disappearance remain a mystery. The plane lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam.

However, searchers in a low-flying plane spotted an object that appeared to be one of the plane's doors, the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said, citing the deputy chief of staff of Vietnam's army, Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan.

Two ships from the maritime police were headed to the site about 60 miles south of Tho Chu island in the Gulf of Thailand, the same area where oil slicks were spotted on Saturday.

“From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane,” Tuan said.

The missing jetliner apparently fell from the sky at cruising altitude in fine weather, and the pilots were either unable or had no time to send a distress signal — unusual circumstances under which a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline would crash.

Stolen passports probed

Authorities were checking on the identities of the two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight's manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

“I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference, adding that the footage was being examined.

The thefts of the two passports — one belonging to Austrian Christian Kozel and the other to Luigi Maraldi of Italy — were entered into Interpol's database after they were stolen in Thailand in 2012 and last year, the police body said. But no authorities in Malaysia or elsewhere checked the passports against the database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents before the Malaysia Airlines plane took off.

In a forceful statement, the Interpol chief, who has called passport fraud one of the world's greatest threats, said he hoped “that governments and airlines worldwide will learn from the tragedy.”

“Now we have a real case where the world is speculating whether the stolen passport holders were terrorists,” Noble said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Matthew Santoni and Adam Smeltz are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.