A New Zealand man working on an oil rig in the South China Sea claims he witnessed missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 burst into flames before disappearing.

Mike McKay, who was working on the Songa Mercur drilling platform off the Vietnamese coast, described the incident, which he said took place 50-70 km from his location, in an email to his supervisors.

From the email:

When I observed the burning (plane) it appeared to be in one piece.


From when I first saw the burning (plane) until the flames went out (still at high altitude) was 10-15 seconds. There was no lateral movement, so it was either coming toward our location, stationary (falling) or going away from our location.

ABC's Bob Woodruff confirmed with Mckay's employers that the email is real. If what McKay witnessed was actually Flight 370, it would disprove reports that the flight changed course and disappeared over the Strait of Malacca.

UPDATE 4:39 PM: From ABC News:

Authorities ran down another lead this week, but came up empty. A New Zealand man working on an oil rig emailed authorities after he said he spotted a burning object in the water east of Vietnam on Saturday morning, the day the plane disappeared. Vietnamese officials sent a plane to the area to investigate the man's claims, but the search was fruitless, naval officer Le Minh Thanh told ABC News.

The full email is below:

[h/t The Atlantic Wire/Image via Getty]