Next of kin of the passengers and crew who were on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 when it disappeared nearly three years ago held a remembrance day event in Kuala Lumpur yesterday (Saturday) and launched an initiative to raise finances for a new search for the plane.
They emphasised that discovering what happened to MH370 was not only important for them, but was also an issue of aviation safety.
The Australia-led underwater search for the plane in the southern Indian Ocean was suspended on January 17 after an area spanning 120,000 square kilometres was scoured. Not a single piece of debris was found and the search teams failed to find MH370’s black box.
Relatives of those on board the missing plane – which disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board – want a further search to be conducted in the southern Indian Ocean, but in an area north of the zone that has been prioritised so far.
At the remembrance event at Publika, oceanographer Charitha Pattiaratchi (pictured left) from the University of Western Australia in Perth put the case for searching north of the previous priority zone.
He cited drift modelling that has led to the discovery of debris on Reunion island, Mauritius, Madagascar, and South Africa.
The discovery of this debris, he says, indicates that MH370 went down north of the area that has been the main focus so far.
The southern Indian Ocean search area was chosen on the basis of calculations by staff of the British company Inmarsat, who analysed satellite pings – or handshakes – from MH370.
Significant doubt has been cast on Inmarsat’s conclusions, however, and there are many who think the plane did not end up in the southern Indian Ocean at all.
For now, however, the next of kin consider that the northern zone favoured by Charitha Pattiaratchi is the place that should be searched.
KS Narendran, whose wife Chandrika Sharma was on board MH370, said that China, Malaysia, and Australia had so far borne the entire cost of the search for the plane, which has amounted to more than US$135 million.
The next of kin want to see the governments of the 14 countries whose nationals were on board MH370 contributing to a continued search.
The families say they are seeking “alternative funding”. They do not want those who have a responsibility to search for MH370 to be absolved of that responsibility.
“This is something that will have to be carried forward along with the governments, not in place of the governments,” Narendran said.
Finding answers has global benefits, he adds. “It is not confined to just the few countries that are contributing. It’s not confined to just the airline that flew MH370. Every single airline, every company associated with the aviation sector, stands to benefit.”
The next of kin want every organisation “that serves and benefits from the aviation sector” to contribute to a new search.
They say they will only actively begin the fundraising once they are sure that the three governments have ceased searching for MH370.
Narendran (pictured left) told those at yesterday’s gathering that not a day passes for the relatives of those on board MH370 when they do not acutely feel the absence of their men, women, and children “who were there on that flight in the middle of the night”.
Ghyslain Wattrelos, whose wife Laurence and two of his three children were on board flight MH370, said: “We know that we need more information to solve this. We know that there was not only one satellite that sighted the plane.
“There may be other satellites that have data; there may be other radars from other countries that have data. There may be submarines somewhere on which something was heard. We know that information is available and we need to find it.”
Wattrelos said the past three years had been “the longest thousand days ever for me; at the beginning waiting for them to come back and then waiting for an answer to why they are not coming back”.
He added: “It’s even harder because we know someone has the answer. We know the truth has been hidden from us. So, on top of the pain that we have already, we have the anger. It means for all of us that it is just impossible to live a normal life.”
Wattrelos says the next of kin cannot wait for another thousand days without answers, so need the search for the plane to continue. “We need the people who noticed something on that night to speak out loud. We need some authorities who are hiding things from us to be courageous and to give us the information they have.
“We cannot accept that the safest plane in the world disappeared like this in one of the most monitored areas in the world.”
Observing a minute’s silence.
Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai told the next of kin: “There are no words that can describe your feelings and no-one will ever understand the pain and sorrow you have gone through.”
Liow (pictured left) said that 25 pieces of debris had been found and analysed, and two more items were discovered in South Africa a fortnight ago. There had been confirmation that three items of debris belonged to MH370, Liow said, and five others were “almost certainly” from the plane. The remaining items were awaiting further analysis.
The minister said that some family members had asked to see the recovered debris and this would be arranged. He also said that the Malaysian government had set up a special response team to deal with debris finds.
Liow said a final report on the investigation into MH370’s disappearance would be released this year.
He said the government would make a ministerial statement on March 8 and there would be a special parliamentary session in remembrance of the ‘tragedy of MH370”.
The suspension of the underwater search was “not easy”, Liow said, and the decision was not taken lightly or without sadness.
“The suspension is by no means the end of our unwavering commitment to find closure in this unfortunate tragedy.”
Liow said the Malaysian government’s aspiration to locate MH370 had not been abandoned and the government remained “ever hopeful that we will be able to find answers when credible evidence becomes available”.
Teams of experts led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was currently analysing all the available data, he added.
American amateur investigator Blaine Alan Gibson, who has found numerous pieces of plane debris, says, however, that new credible evidence is available and those in charge of the investigation into MH370’s disappearance should immediately announce a new search in the northern zone favoured by Charitha Pattiaratchi.
Gibson told Changing Times yesterday that he has stopped the “open, public” part of his search. He still wants to find answers, but will remain low-key unless he finds something significant.
“I have been targeted by a defamation campaign and some death threats,” he said.
Gibson says he feels very encouraged that the families have not given up, “that, even though the official search has been suspended, the families are still out here saying ‘Search on’”.
Gibson with debris found on an island in eastern Madagascar.
He says that if those in charge of the search for MH370 still believe in the Inmarsat data, “and they insist they do”, there is every reason to combine the debris evidence, drift analysis, and aerial search records, follow the recommendations of their own scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), “and go and search that new area, which is relatively small”.
He says that if the governments have lost confidence in the Inmarsat data, they should simply admit it.
“It’s for the families, but it’s not just for the families; it’s for the flying public. Any one of us could have been on that plane. Any one of our loved-ones could have been on that plane. And we need to know when we get on a plane that we are not just going to disappear and, until they find out what happened to MH370, we are not going to know that.”
Gibson says claims that the debris that he and others have found has been planted are unfounded and irresponsible. “There’s no evidence at all that this stuff was planted.”
He is outraged by the continued media focus on the “rogue pilot” theory. “There is no evidence to support the pilot murder-suicide scenario. In fact, there is a lot of evidence to contradict it. The debris evidence contradicts it.”
The wing flap found in Tanzania was retracted, Gibson points out. “It was not deployed. If this were a controlled suicide-glide ditching to hide the plane forever, that wing flap would have been deployed.
“The pilot, co-pilot and crew and passengers have been cleared by two separate independent criminal investigations in Malayia and France.”
Stubborn adherence to the “rogue pilot” theory does a tremendous disservice to Captain Zaharie Shah’s family, the families of all the others on board, and to the truth, Gibson says.
“It’s a myth. It did not happen. Anyone who continues to promote that theory should be ashamed of themselves.”
Next of kin from Australia, France, and China travelled to Malaysia for yesterday’s event. They spoke of their continued pain and lack of closure.
Danica Weeks from Australia, whose husband Paul was a passenger on MH370, was at the remembrance event with her two sons, Lincoln and Jack. She says she always flies with her sons now.
“I’ve seen them lose one parent and I couldn’t bear for them to lose another. I fly everywhere with them so that, if something does happen, I know we are all together.”
Jack and Lincoln Weeks
Weeks (pictured above) told the remembrance day gathering that there had been 1,091 days of “continued sadness, anguish, and indescribable pain” that all the next of kin had endured while there had been no answers about what happened to MH370.
Now, she said, it was mostly about justice; justice for those aboard MH370, their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and extended family and friends left behind, and the aviation industry as a whole.
“For all these reasons, MH370 cannot remain a mystery.”
Jacquita Gonzales (pictured below), whose husband Patrick Gomes was an in-flight supervisor on MH370, called for public and media support all the time, not just at the time of anniversaries. “There is no closure until we find the plane,” she told yesterday’s gathering.
Consultant clinical psychologist Paul Jambunathan, who has been working with relatives of those on board the missing plane, talked at yesterday’s event about the importance of closure and the effects of the grief that the next of kin are suffering.
Grace Subathirai Nathan, whose mother Anne Daisy was on board MH370, said that if she had to summarise the past three years in one word , it would by “why?”. Now it was “Why has the search been suspended?”.
Nathan has been to Australia to talk to experts and was one of the next of kin who went on a self-funded trip to Madagascar and Mauritius last December to raise awareness about MH370 and undertake a search for debris.
Now, Nathan says, the Voice370 campaign has become less about the next of kin and their closure, and more about the public. “I think it is important for all of us to understand that finding this plane is a matter that is relevant to all of us.
“It extends to all of us, especially every single time our friends, our colleagues, our family members, and we ourselves, take to the skies.
“We have to find this plane so that we can prevent something like this from happening ever again.”
The cost of a new Boeing 777 is double the sum spent on the search for MH370, Nathan points out. “While planes can be replaced, lives cannot.”
Voice370, which is the association for relatives of those on board MH370, said in a statement: “For us time has stood still. Our lives remain in limbo … Theories, speculation and conspiracies about the fate of MH370 and its whereabouts have only exacerbated our emotional turmoil.”
The next of kin released eight doves to mark the three-year anniversary, and there was work on show by twenty local artists who have depicted stories told by relatives of those on board MH370, which was en route from KL to Beijing when it disappeared.
The dancing violinist Natassha Zoe Rachel Joseph, better known as Zoe J:
A lawsuit has been filed in the United States against Boeing that alleges a series of catastrophic electrical and other failures on board MH370.
It is claimed that an electrical fire caused MH370 to depressurise, and the crew became incapacitated.
The plaintiffs in the case are lawyer Gregory Keith and the relatives of 44 passengers who were aboard MH370.
Keith filed the case in the US District Court in South Carolina.
The plaintiffs allege that Boeing knew about design flaws on the 777 aircraft, including defective wiring near combustible sources like the emergency oxygen supply to the plane’s crew.
They say that “the disappearance and crash of MH370 was caused or partially caused by defects in the design, manufacture and/or assembly of the aircraft”.
The lawsuit states: “The crash and loss of the passengers was a reasonable and foreseeable consequence of Boeing’s defective design, manufacture and/or assembly of the aircraft for which Boeing is strictly liable.”
According to the lawsuit, “the defects caused and/or allowed a massive and cascading sequence of electrical failures” on board MH370 that disabled vital systems, including the plane’s ACARS and Mode S Transponder, “making it impossible for the crew to navigate the plane or for the plane to communicate with the ground stations”.
The aircraft was left to fly until it ran out of fuel, the plaintiffs state.
The plaintiffs say that the failure to locate MH370 has resulted in “a lack of finality and an enduring mystery that has caused unprecedented levels of economic and non-economic losses, emotional and physical pain, distress and mental pain and suffering to those lost on the plane and to their families, the survivors, dependents, heirs, beneficiaries and estates”.
The lawsuit states that, at the time the plane that would become MH370 left the custody and control of Boeing, it was “defective and unreasonably dangerous” in several respects.
It says the aircraft’s electrical wiring was “defective and inadequately protected and installed and was subject to contact with combustible sources, including the oxygen supply hose in the flight crews’ emergency oxygen supply”.
The aircraft had combustible sources that were inadequately protected, “including conductive oxygen supply hoses in the flight crews’ emergency oxygen supply”, the plantiffs state.
They further state that avionics and communications system in the cockpit of the aircraft, along with the plane’s transponder and pressurisation system, and the suppression systems in the cargo hold, were “defective and subject to failure”.
The plaintiffs state that the loss of MH370 and the “inability to find the plane” are substantially the result of Boeing’s decision not to equip MH370 with “readily available and reasonable alternative technologies that would have permitted the lost plane’s precise location to be tracked in real-time anywhere on the planet”.
They allege that the inability to find the plane is also the result of Boeing’s decision to equip MH370, its Flight Data Recorder (FDR), and its Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), with Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) and Underwater Locator Beacons (ULBs) that were ineffective.
“Boeing elected to equip the lost plane with these ineffective ELTs and ULBs despite the presence of other readily available and reasonable alternative technologies that would have allowed the lost plane, the FDR, and the CVR to be tracked in real-time anywhere in the world, especially in cases of crashes, disruption of communications and other losses.”
The lawsuit states that before and on March 8, 2014, “and as the direct and proximate result of one or more of the above-described defective and unreasonably dangerous conditions in the lost plane”, the electrical systems failed, an electrical fire occurred on the lost plane, and there were failures of the avionics and communications system in the cockpit, the transponder, the pressurisation system, and/or the fire suppression systems in the cargo hold.
“Because of one or a combination of the above failures the flight crew become unresponsive, disorientated and/or unconscious, and the lost aircraft was caused to, and did, violently crash into the Indian Ocean and Plaintiff’s decedents were injured and caused to die and be lost, and their families unable to recover them and lay them to rest.”
The plaintiffs say Boeing has taken no actions to find the missing aircraft.
They point out that the official investigation concluded that there was adequate fuel for the planned flight and there were no weight or maintenance issues “which could have caused or contributed to the crash”. The investigating team found no evidence that “any pilot, passenger or other crew member caused or contributed to the loss of the plane and crash” and no evidence had surfaced of pilot or other crew or stowaway suicide or terrorism being the cause.
The ATSB report in December 2015 stated that there was no evidence to suggest that the aircraft was under controlled flight, the plaintiffs add.
“The ATSB previously concluded that the most likely cause of the disappearance and crash of Flight MH370 was a massive and cascading sequence of electrical failures onboard the Boeing airplane,” the lawsuit states.
“Boeing knew or should have known that the design of its electrical systems, control systems, fire suppression, oxygen, communications, control, tracking and/or warning systems, their improper installation, and/or their defects, would result in failures,” it adds.
“Boeing was aware that these electrical systems were inadequate and this was dangerous … exposing Plaintiff’s decedents to unreasonable risk, injury, loss and death.”
The plaintiffs are seeking “all damages as allowed by law, including punitive and/or exemplary damages, interest as allowed by law, and costs” and are demanding “trial by jury on all issues triable as of right by a jury”.
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