By Greg Heffer
Katherine Tee was sailing from Kochi, India to Phuket in Thailand when she spotted what she believes to be stricken Flight MH370.
The 41-year-old, from Liverpool, has now filed a report with the authorities in charge of the so-far fruitless search for debris from the Boeing 777.
The experienced yachtswoman was alone at the time, as her husband and their other crew member slept while she took a night watch.
“I saw something that looked like a plane on fire. That’s what I thought it was. Then, I thought I must be mad,” she told the Phuket Gazette.
“It caught my attention because I had never seen a plane with orange lights before, so I wondered what they were.
“I could see the outline of the plane, it looked longer than planes usually do. There was what appeared to be black smoke streaming from behind it.”
Mrs Tee described how she saw another two planes in the sky at the same time, believing the other aircraft would also report the sight of a plane on fire.
She added: “I wondered again why it had such bright orange lights. They reminded me of sodium lights.
“I thought it could be some anomaly or just a meteor.”
Mrs Tee initially kept the sighting to herself, admitting she hadn’t spoken to her husband “for about a week” at the time due to an on-deck row.
However, she finally shared news of the unusual sight when their yacht arrived in Phuket on March 10.
No trace of Flight MH370 has been found since it veered off course on March 8 while bound for Beijing with 239 people aboard.
Mrs Tee imagined her report would be “dismissed with the thousands of other sightings” she believed were being reported to authorities at the time and would therefore “add little” to the mystery of the plane’s disappearance.
She also believed the plane’s GPS log would have been tracked.
She added: “Most of all, I wasn’t sure of what I saw. I couldn’t believe it myself, and didn’t think anyone would believe me when I was having trouble believing my own eyes.
“I didn’t even consider putting out a Mayday at the time. Imagine what an idiot I would have looked like if I was mistaken, and I believed I was.
“So I dismissed it, and got on with the business of fixing myself and my marriage.”
However, since hearing a news report on the plane’s continued disappearance last week, Mrs Tee has decided to revisit her yacht’s log in order to discover where she was likely to have made her sighting.
According to the couple’s data, their 40-foot vessel was in the vicinity of one of the initial projected flight paths for MH370.
Posting her findings on a sailing forum, Mrs Tee has now been convinced to file a report with the full data of her voyage to the Joint Agency Coordination Centre.
She said: “Will this help the authorities of the families get closure? I have no idea.
“All I can confirm is that I have since learnt that we were in the right place at the right time, so it seems possible, but I chose to sweep it under the carpet and now I feel really bad.
“Maybe I should have had a little more confidence in myself. I am sorry I didn’t take action sooner.”
Search teams have recently completed the first phase of their hunt for the missing jet, concluding an area off western Australia in the southern Indian Ocean is not the final resting place of MH370.
A search of an expanded 56,000 square-kilometre area is now likely to begin in August.
Authorities had originally concentrated their efforts on an area near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal before switching their attentions to the region off Perth – based on ‘pings’ heard from what is believed to have been the plane’s black boxes.
The US Navy last week dismissed claims these signals heard in April were not from MH370.