Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight

| Sunday, March 9, 2014, 7:54 p.m.

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.

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