"Wolf has been cried so many times," Sarah Bajc tells PEOPLE
Credit: Courtesy Sarah Hamil Bajc

As searchers failed Thursday to find debris spotted by satellite near Australia that may be from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of American passenger Philip Wood, clung to hope that he and others are still alive.

“Just another lead,” says Bajc, noting that every other lead has turned out to be a dead end. “Wolf has been cried so many times. I just hope it’s junk.”

Bajc says she and Wood have so much in common, and are so close, she intuitively would know when he was coming home early without hearing his footsteps.

Bajc says that same intuition tells her that Wood, of Keller, Texas, is still alive, despite the odds.

“That uncanny connection is still there,” Bajc said in an interview this week from Beijing. “Either I’m wishing so hard that I’m making it happen, or I genuinely still do feel his presence. But I do not believe he’s dead.”

As the search for the plane continues, Bajc suggests not only that it landed safely enough that at least some passengers, including Wood, survived, but that he is likely helping others and keeping people calm. She says she’s frustrated people have assumed the worst.

At one point, Bajc held her phone out the window to capture the sound of children laughing and playing in the background. This helps keep her going, she says.

“Positive energy has an impact, just like negative energy has an impact,” Bajc says.

Bajc, a former CEO who teaches advanced economics and business studies, says she’s also buoyed by the story of her relationship with Wood, a technical executive at IBM. They met in Beijing in 2011 at a club near where they each lived. As they started dating, they learned that they ate many of the same foods, drank the same bourbon and even had the same 10-year-old flashlight.

“His younger son Christopher looked at me and said, ‘Man. You’re like the female version of my dad!’ ” she recalled. Wood has two children, and Bajc three, each from a previous marriage. Bajc says she was surprised to find her “soulmate” at this stage in her life.

She says they were preparing to move in together in Malaysia with her youngest son, and they’d already started planning how they would enjoy the first few weeks by hiking and visiting a wildlife sanctuary.

Although she and Wood have talked about getting married when the time is right, they never declared that they were engaged. Instead, she says longingly, “We were life partners who had made the decision to grow old together.”

To follow the search for Wood, please visit the official Facebook page and Twitter account or use the hashtag #FindPhilipWood.

For more on the passengers aboard Flight 370, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now