Johannesburg - A Joburg woman claims that the co-pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner illegally allowed her into the cockpit during a flight, then later invited her back to his hotel.
Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing on Saturday, under clear night skies and with no suspicion of any mechanical problems.
No trace of the plane has been found, and contradictory and incomplete information from Malaysian authorities has infuriated relatives enduring an unbearable wait for news of their loved ones.
Now Joburger Jonti Roos has told CNN that the pilot of Flight 370 had flaunted several regulations in the past.
Roos said Fariq Abdul Hamid, the first officer on board MH370, and his co-pilot had picked the then-teenager and her friend out of the queue as they were flying from Phuket, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2011.
The pilots then asked the girls if they would like to fly in the cockpit.
Roos claimed the pilots smoked throughout the flight, against the airline’s regulations, and posed for several pictures with them.
Roos’s Facebook profile states that she matriculated from Hoërskool Kempton Park in 2010.
Her friend, whose name is known to The Star, was wary of speaking about the incident when contacted on Wednesday morning.
“I don’t want to imply that’s what the pilot was doing when it went missing,” she said.
Roos has lived in Australia for over a year while her friend now lives in Stellenbosch.
“It’s a very sad story, I feel sorry for everyone involved,” she said about the missing plane before declining to comment any further.
Roos said she was shocked when she saw that Hamid was one of those missing.
“When I realised that it was the exact same co-pilot... and that I had met him and been in the cockpit with him and have photos with him, that was quite shocking,” she told CNN.
She said she did not want to suggest Hamid was incompetent.
“I’m really not saying that I think the co-pilot is in the wrong, at all; it could have been absolutely anything.”
Roos said while the pilots were “possibly a little bit sleazy” and invited the girls to stay with them in Kuala Lumpur, she never felt threatened by them or uncomfortable and that she was sad for Hamid’s family and friends.
“When I saw all his friends and family posting on his (Facebook) wall, my heart really broke for them and for the family of the passengers. It’s just a really sad story.”
The girls, who had just finished a two-week trip to Thailand, spent the entire flight – including take-off and landing – in the cockpit with the two pilots, which is forbidden by the airline.
Malaysia Airlines said on Tuesday it was “shocked” over these allegations.
“Malaysia Airlines has become aware of the allegations being made against First Officer, Fariq Ab Hamid, which we take very seriously,” a statement released by the airline read.
Passengers were prohibited from entering cockpits during flights after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US.
On Tuesday, the search operation grew to involve 42 ships and 35 aircraft from South-East Asian countries, Australia, China, New Zealand and the US.
“We are not going to leave any chance.
“We have to look at every possibility,” civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said.
Authorities had earlier expanded the zone to the Malacca Strait off Malaysia’s west coast.