Fresh hope in mystery of missing Malaysia MH370 flight as search update given

After ten years the plane is still missing but families of those presumed dead have celebrated Sunday’s news

Rich Booth
Reporting by AP
Sunday 03 March 2024 12:59 GMT
This Day in History: Malaysia Airlines Flight Vanishes With More Than 200 People

Fresh hope has been given in one of the biggest mysteries of modern times - the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Malaysia’s government said on Sunday it may renew the hunt for the missing plane after a US technology firm proposed a fresh search in the southern Indian Ocean where the plane is believed to have crashed a decade ago.

The relatives of the victims have endured 10 years of not knowing of the fate of their loved ones.

Shortly after midnight on 8 March, local time, air-traffic controllers lost contact with the jet while it was over the South China Sea. Over the following weeks, painstaking analysis of radar tracking and a succession of satellite “pings” showed that the jet veered off course and flew west over the South East Asia peninsula before turning south over the Indian Ocean.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Texas-based Ocean Infinity has proposed another “no find, no fee” basis to scour the seabeds, expanding from the site where it first searched in 2018. He said he has invited the company to meet him to evaluate new scientific evidence it has to find the plane’s final resting place.

If the evidence is credible, he said, he will seek Cabinet’s approval to sign a new contract with Ocean Infinity to resume the search.

“The government is steadfast in our resolve to locate MH370,” Loke told a remembrance event to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of the jet.

“We really hope the search can find the plane and provide truth to the next-of-kin.”

FILE - A man walks past a board reading “Pray for MH370” for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Boeing 777 plane carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese nationals, from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing, vanished from radar shortly after taking off on March 8, 2014. Satellite data showed the plane deviated from its flight path and was believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

But an expensive multinational government search failed to turn up any clues, although several pieces of debris washed ashore on the east African coast and Indian Ocean islands.

A map of the search for the Boeing 777 plane

A private search in 2018 by Ocean Infinity also found nothing but the tragedy sparked moves to bolster aviation safety.

K.S. Nathan, a member of the Voice MH370 group comprising next-of-kin, said Ocean Infinity initially planned a new search last year but it was delayed by the delivery of its new fleet of ships and assets. It is now on track to resume the hunt, he said.

Timeline of the missing MH370 flight

What happened on the day

The Malaysia Airlines jet took off normally from Kuala Lumpur on a routine flight to Beijing. The manifest showed there were 239 people on board – though some speculate there may have been at least one more, hiding in an under-floor bay before perpetrating an act of mass murder).

At 1.19am, the captain acknowledged an instruction from Malaysian air-traffic controllers with the words: “Good night Malaysian Three Seven Zero.” This was the last recorded radio transmission from MH370.

“He did not read back the assigned frequency, which was inconsistent with radio-telephony procedures,” notes the official investigation report.

During the handover from Malaysian to Vietnamese air-traffic controllers, the aircraft appeared to vanish.

The first the world knew that anything was wrong was when air-traffic controllers in Vietnam were unable to make contact with the Boeing 777.

After much confusion and some fictitious reports that it had diverted over Cambodia or landed in southern China with technical problems, MH370 was declared missing. The plane was presumed to have crashed in the South China Sea.

For a week, rescuers conducted a fruitless search in the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam. Then, at a dramatic press conference in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, announced that the aircraft had remained aloft for hours after it disappeared.

Loke declined to reveal the fee proposed by Ocean Infinity if it finds the plane, as this is subject to negotiation. He said financial cost is not an issue and that he doesn’t foresee any hindrances for the search to proceed if all goes well.

Loke’s response sparked tears of joy in some family members at the event held in a mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.

“I’m on top of the world,” said Jacquita Gomes, whose flight attendant husband was on the plane. She said she is thankful that she may now have a chance for full closure and say a final goodbye.

“We have been on a roller coaster for the last 10 years. ... If it is not found, I hope that it will continue with another search,” she said.

Phoenix Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Bluefin-21 is craned over the side of Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 on April 14, 2014 (Getty Images)

Family members of passengers from Malaysia, Australia, China and India paid tribute to their loved ones during the event, lighting a candle on stage to remember them.“

No matter if it is 10 years, 20 years or more, as long as we are still alive...we will not cease to press for the truth. We believe the truth will eventually come to light,” said Bai Zhong, from China, whose wife was on the plane.

The man who led the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s two-year search of the seabed, Martin Dolan, says the act was carefully planned: “This was deliberate, and it was done over an extended period of time.”

The aviation security guru, Philip Baum, concurs: “Most agencies are confident that the loss of MH370 was the result of a criminal act and that the aircraft was deliberately, and manually, made to divert from its intended flight plan,” he told me.

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